Tue, Nov 20, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Brutal Munster hammer second-string Clermont

AFP , PARIS

Toulouse's Yannick Nyanga, center, flanked by teammates, runs with the ball during their match against Leinster in Toulouse on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Three-time European Cup finalists Munster bounced back from their agonizing opening day loss to holders Wasps by hammering a second string Clermont side 36-13 in Limerick on Sunday.

Last year's champions picked up a bonus point to boot as they ran in five tries, with 35-year-old South African fullback Shaun Payne marking his 100th appearance for the Irish province with the first of them.

Clermont -- for whom World Cup winning skipper John Smit made his first start -- may come to regret making 14 changes to the side that had destroyed Welsh outfit Llanelli last weekend such is the outstanding quality of their pool.

Truth be told, the French side hung in there and it was only two tries in the final minutes of the match from Alan Quinlan and Irish international teammate Marcus Horan that ensured there was no late fightback from the reigning European Challenge holders.

Clermont coach Vernon Cotter was not in the least apologetic about making so many changes.

"I have to blood all my players at some point," he said. "This is only our fourth match and we have 35 remaining. I am proud of my players and we kept on coming back at them at important moments. There are lots of positives to take from the match."

Clermont's defeat was swiftly followed by that of French champions Stade Francais, who were outmuscled by English side Bristol 17-0.

Kiwi flyhalf David Hill kicked four penalties while Neil Brew scored the only try of the match when he intercepted a pass by South African-born center Brian Liebenberg to round off the scoring three minutes from time.

Stade coach Fabien Galthie accepted that his side had just not performed in what were testing weather conditions.

"In order to win away from home one has to be good in all the basic skills and parts of the game," the former France scrumhalf said.

"They were better than us in every sector. And without doubt they were in a better mental state," Galthie said.

In Sunday's late game three-time champions Toulouse crushed Irish giants Leinster 33-6 to go top of pool 6.

The sides went into the break 6-6, but Toulouse then ran in four unanswered tries from Clement Poitrenaud, Valentin Courrent, Cedric Heymans and Vincent Clerc.

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