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Reigning European Rugby Challenge Cup winners Bristol Bears take on ASM Clermont Auvergne at Ashton Gate on Saturday in their first game in the Heineken Champions Cup since 2008.
Clermont averaged 33.4 points per game in the Heineken Champions Cup last season, more than any other club, but were knocked out in the quarter-finals by eventual runners-up Racing 92.
The first meeting of the two sides since the 2002/03 competition kicks off at 13:00 (UK and Irish time), and will be shown live on Channel 4, Virgin Media, BT Sport and beIN SPORTS.
Franck Azema (ASM Clermont Auvergne): “We know that we’re playing against a team that are establishing themselves. Given the aim that they’ve had for the last two or three seasons, they’re starting to get to where they want to be.”
Luke Morahan (Bristol Bears): “I don’t think we’ve been very quiet on what we want to do: we want to achieve more trophies and be one of the best teams in Europe. These are the sort of games you want, because they grow you as a club, grow you as players and give you really good recognition to be a part of big-time rugby.”
Can @BristolBears make the step up in #HeinekenChampionsCup this season? 🐻
They'll certainly be thrown in the deep end as they welcome Clermont to Ashton Gate on Saturday 😳@Ljmorahan believes they're ready for the challenge 👉 https://t.co/im4DpSRuX4 pic.twitter.com/JorQ4J2uVm
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 9, 2020
- Bristol Bears won their previous two games against Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Champions Cup, both matches took place during the pool stage in 2002/03.
- Bristol Bears lost their last two games in the Heineken Champions Cup but have never lost more in succession; however, their last game in the competition was in January 2008, against Cardiff Blues (0-17), the only time they have failed to score in their 85 games in European competition.
- Clermont have won 13 of their last 15 games in the pool stage of the Heineken Champions Cup (L2), but both their defeats in that span came away from home, including one in England (v Northampton Saints in 2017/18).
- Clermont Auvergne averaged 33.4 points per game in the Heineken Champions Cup last season, more than any other club, while Bristol Bears averaged the most in the Challenge Cup (37.1).
- Bristol’s Luke Morahan made the most clean breaks (22) in the Challenge Cup last season, while he also gained the most metres of any player (542).
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ASM Clermont Auvergne scored seven tries as they proved too strong for Challenge Cup holders Bristol Bears in a 51-38 win at Ashton Gate in the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday afternoon.
A hat-trick from Kotaro Matsushima helped the French side on their way to a pivotal European away success, with a total of 12 tries scored in a thrilling clash in the West Country.
Clermont raced into a commanding lead, with a try from Matsushima, an intercept score from Apisai Naqalevu who sprinted clear from inside his own half, and a third from Damian Penaud who cut inside and scored near the posts.
All three tries were converted by Camille Lopez, but it was Bristol who would eventually get onto the scoresheet through Max Malins who found the perfect line and darted between two Clermont defenders to score at the sticks.
“Every year we believe we can go all the way” ✨
George Moala is today’s Heineken Star of the Match after an unstoppable attacking displaying for @ASMOfficiel in the @ChampionsCup 👏#C4Rugby #BRIvASM #HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/hsA4Nrdjc8
— Channel 4 Sport (@C4Sport) December 12, 2020
The French side soon brought up the try bonus point as they worked another overlap with relative ease before finding Matsushima who had enough pace to burn the final Bristol defender and stay in touch before diving over the whitewash.
Bryan Byrne was the next to go over from the back of a powerful driving maul, with Callum Sheedy converting to cut the gap to 12 points.
The sides then traded penalties either side of the break before Bristol narrowed the Clermont lead to eight points, with Henry Purdy having no problem barging past several French defenders before rolling back to Harry Randall who was able to work past the final man and score in the corner.
“38 points at the start of the day – @BristolBears would have taken that” 😬@skysportsmiles and co-commentators @jamieheaslip and @nolli15 dissect a jaw-dropping game of rugby here at Ashton Gate 😮#C4Rugby #BRIvASM #HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/ovDSm60xXq
— Channel 4 Sport (@C4Sport) December 12, 2020
But Clermont soon took over again, with Penaud again crossing before Fritz Lee bulldozed his way over the try line after Bristol’s defence splintered with relative ease.
The French side then brought up the half-century of points as Matsushima grabbed a third try of the afternoon, dummying, stepping and sprinting away for a simple score.
Ioan Lloyd and Siale Piutau would add consolation tries, helping the hosts earn a try bonus point but it wasn’t enough to trouble Clermont who would leave Ashton Gate with all five points.
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