DRAGONS supporters were treated to Champions Cup rugby for the first time since 2011 as Clermont Auvergne ran riot in a seven-try, 49-7 win at Rodney Parade.

The French side are a top tier team playing in the Challenge Cup and showed their pedigree with a ruthless performance to have their four-try bonus in the bag before half an hour had been played.

The Dragons have enjoyed an encouraging month or so but could not live with the Top 14 leaders, who treated them as Ceri Jones’ had done Timisoara Saracens in Newport seven days earlier.

Clermont came expecting cinq points and they managed that with ease, through a combination of their stellar quality and errors from a shell-shocked Dragons.

The hosts aren’t the only ones to suffer at the hands of ‎Les Jaunards.

They made it a perfect 30 points in the Challenge Cup, took their try count in six Pool One fixtures to 44 and have also run amok in the league rugby with 53 tries in 14 matches.

The Dragons have defended pretty strongly since their December trip to the Stade Marcel Michelin with a just four tries shipped in the three festive derbies while Timisoara were limited to an early penalty in a 59-3 hammering.

They will hope to return to those standards when Munster visit Newport next Saturday and, as good as the Irish province are, Jones & Co will be thankful that they won’t face quality like Clermont.

The caretaker boss fielded a side that, Wales duo Aaron Wainwright and Hallam Amos apart, won’t be far off from taking to the field for the return to the PRO14 but it was clear from the moment Clermont announced their team that they would face a herculean task.

The French side travelled without their six-strong contingent from France’s Six Nations squad plus Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw and the influential Davit Zirakashvili, Peceli Yato and Fritz Lee.

Nonetheless, the Top 14 fielded an imposing team packed with quality talent with French international forwards Damien Chouly, Benjamin Kayser and Paul Jedrasiak up front along with Springboks lock Flip van der Merwe.

They were charged with laying the platform for a rapid set of three-quarters that comprised of an all-international back three of England's Nick Abendanon, Australia's Peter Betham and France's Remy Grosso and a midfield of All Black George Moala and Fijian Apisai Naqalevu.

South Wales Argus:

The Frenchmen were hot favourites and started like a side expecting to have too much class.

They had a try chalked off in the second minute when scrum-half Charlie Cassang knocked on going for the line but they were a try away from their bonus before 20 minutes had been played.

Clermont’s expansive approach didn’t create their first, instead it was aggressive defence that forced prop Lloyd Fairbrother to spill a pass that fly-half Pato Fernandez scooped up to race over from halfway.

He converted and did the same after tries by flanker Alexandre Fischer, put over by Betham down the right, and lock Jedrasiak after a sublime move that was sparked by a rapid run by tighthead, yes tighthead, Sipili Falatea.

Those scores came while Wales flanker Aaron Wainwright was in the sin bin for killing the ball five metres from his own line.

The Dragons were helpless against rampant Clermont even when the numbers were even and the visitors’ bonus was secure when wing Grosso ran through lock Matthew Screech.

The hosts’ first half was summed up when the left winger, somehow not in France’s Six Nations squad, snaffled a Jarryd Sage pass to race over for the fifth and a 35-0 lead.

The Dragons ended the first half on the attack but their faltering lineout meant they didn’t reduce the deficit, although Jedrasiak did see yellow for dragging down one maul.

That pattern repeated at the start of the second half with the hosts frustratingly unable to turn chances in the 22 into points.

Nonetheless, the Dragons’ spells of pressure had at least saved them from the prospect of enduring a defeat worse than the 60-3 to Glasgow at Rodney Parade in 2013.

That was a possibility again approaching the hour when the hosts got too narrow in defence and former Wallabies speedster Betham raced over untouched from a scrum, the conversion making it 42-0.

Thankfully Clermont had no interest in flogging a dead horse, although they weren’t in the mood to give up their clean sheet with some excellent cover defence leading to wing Jared Rosser being held up over the line in the 73rd minute.

The Dragons’ night was summed up when centre Adam Warren, usually so dependable, knocked on from the resulting scrum and the visitors went straight down the other end for try number seven, Jedrasiak finishing off from close range.

Thankfully the hosts managed to lose their zero when replacement full-back Jordan Williams was put over by Amos with two minutes to go, a score appreciated more by the sizeable visiting contingent in the stands than it was the regulars after a chastening evening.

Dragons: Z Kirchner (J Williams 58), J Rosser, A Warren, J Sage, H Amos, J Tovey (J Lewis 58), R Williams (R Davies 62), B Harris (D Suter 58), R Hibbard (captain, R Lawrence 24-34, 58), L Fairbrother, J Davies, M Screech (H Taylor 66), H Keddie, A Wainwright, O Griffiths (J Benjamin 66).

Scorers: tries – J Williams; conversions – J Lewis

Yellow card: A Wainwright

Clermont: N Abendanon (D Levernhe 70), P Betham, G Moala, A Naqalevu, R Grosso (T Vili 52); P Fernandez, C Cassang (K Viallard 62); B Kakabadze (L Uhila 31), B Kayser (Y Beheregaray 48), S Falatea (M Simutoga 48), P Jedrasiak, F Van der Merwe (J van Tonder 54), J Ruaud, A Fischer (M Lemardelet 57), D Chouly (captain).

Scorers: tries – P Fernandez, A Fischer, P Jedrasiak (2), R Grosso (2), P Betham; conversions – P Fernandez (7)

Yellow card: P Jedrasiak

Referee: Ian Tempest (England)