French hero Parra earns win for Clermont to prevent Sale sealing last-16 place
Introduced with the scores level and 20 minutes to go at Stade Marcel Michelin, France half-back Parra landed two penalties to break the deadlock.
Sale were able to take away a losing bonus point but will still have to pick up more points in their final pool game against Ospreys at home next weekend to be certain of a place in the top eight in Pool A and secure a place in the last 16.
Sharks boss Alex Sanderson, already without an unnamed England international who was suspended by the club due to an ongoing police investigation, lost chief playmaker AJ MacGinty late on meaning he had to put his faith in 21-year-old Kieran Wilkinson at number 10.
After an error-strewn opening, the English Premiership side took the lead after five minutes when home scrum-half Sebastien Bezy knocked on at the base of a scrum in his 22 and the Sharks picked up a penalty turnover. They kicked to the corner and Jean-Luc du Preez drove over for the first of six first-half tries.
His brother Rob hit the post with the conversion but it was a statement of intent from Sale – but Clermont were quick to respond and veteran number eight Fritz Lee crossed at the posts.
Outside half Camille Lopez added the extras and then threw the long cut-out pass in midfield to dangerman Damien Penaud after Clermont had stolen a Sale scrum ball just inside the home half. Penaud had enough space to get on the outside of his marker and send Alivereti Raka racing clear.
Lopez converted and the Covid-restricted home crowd of 5,000 were much happier. Not for long, however.
Three minutes later Sale fashioned their second try as Rob du Preez kicked through and Tom Roebuck outstripped the home cover to dive in. Rob du Preez’s conversion levelled things up and then England prop Bevan Rodd grabbed a pick-and-go try that was also improved by Du Preez.
Just as it looked as though Sale would go into the interval with their tails up, a long kick through by flanker Judicael Concoriet forced Will Cliff to race back and try to clear.
He managed to kick the ball dead to gave Clermont a final play of the half from a five-metre scrum but a kick through to the posts by Lopez earned a try for Penaud and the conversion levelled things up at 19-19.
Worse still for Sale, they lost full-back Luke James to a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on prior to the try which meant they had to play the opening stages of the second half a man short.
Sale successfully negotiated the 10-minute sin-bin period and almost regained the lead just after the hour mark when Cliff dived in at the left corner, only to be denied a try by an arm in touch.
Clermont, though, went back in front in the 67th minute when replacement scrum-half Parra knocked over a 45-metre penalty, and with five minutes to go he added another to give his side some breathing space.
Join free and tell us what you really think!Join Free