The Ospreys outscored their illustrious French visitors by three tries to two but had to settle for a losing bonus point from a thrilling Champions Cup opener at the Liberty Stadium.
They got off to the worst possible start against the reigning French champions and 2017 Champions Cup runners-up and were 14-0 down after 10 minutes. The deficit was 13 at the break and 16 on the hour, but the Ospreys kept going and could have sneaked at the end.
Rhys Webb touched down at the end of the first quarter before Dan Evans scored two second half tries to move above Gavin Henson and Dan Biggar into ninth place in the all-time try-scoring list for the region.
For his part, Biggar kicked six points to become only the third Welshman in history to pass the 500-point landmark in the European Cup.
The early pressure came from the French side but the Ospreys seemed to have weathered the early storm without too much trouble when Evans cleared from deep into the Clermont half.
However, they weren’t accounting for Fijian wing Alivereti Raka who scythed his way half the length of the field to score despite the best efforts of Keelan Giles, tracking back and putting in a last ditch attempt to pull him down.
Trailing inside four minutes the size of the task facing the Ospreys was clear and they were back on their own line shortly after, defending a scrum after Paul Jedrasiak was held up following an effective carry from Remi Lamerat.
The respite was only temporary though as from the resulting setpiece, with an offside advantage in their favour, the French grabbed their second try with only 10 minutes gone, Camille Lopez providing the final pass for Scott Spedding to come through late and score under the posts, giving Parra an easy shot at goal for his second successful conversion.
We’d seen little of the Ospreys as an attacking force up to this point but they burst into life in the 15th minute, a well worked set play from a line out creating space and it was Keelan Giles who cut inside to race clear and score, only for the TMO to spot a clear block by Kieron Fonotia on Remi Lamarat that created the gap for his winger.
Clermont cleared but the Ospreys came back and from a lineout on the other side it was Cory Allen who ran a great angle, carrying into the 22. Dmitri Arhip was stopped short before, with a penalty advantage, Webb sniped his way over under the posts to score, Biggar with the extras.
As the contest moved into the second quarter, Parra was able to keep the scoreboard ticking over from 40m out, taking Clermont 10 clear and then, in an almost identical position, the Ospreys were pinged at the scrum and Parra again made no mistake.
The Ospreys made an enforced change when Dan Baker was stretchered off, replaced by Olly Cracknell, after the number eight was tackled in the air, the outcome a penalty to the hosts but not the yellow card most in the ground were anticipating.
Despite that blow the Ospreys stayed positive and some powerful close up running from Webb took the hosts close to the line where Alun Wyn Jones drove over, only to be denied a score by some sterling work from Benjamin Kayser to prevent the grounding.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 7 CLERMONT AUVERGNE 20
It was crucial that the Ospreys made a positive start to the second half and the early exchanges were all inside Clermont territory. Four minutes in, a prolonged spell of pressure close to the line ended when Strettle, clearly in on offside position, picked off Webb’s attempted pass to Biggar, earning himself a yellow card for his troubles.
The hosts went to the corner but, not for the first time, the lineout misfired and Clermont were able to clear.
Despite being a man short the next score went to the visitors, Parra with a simple three points from in front of the posts after a Tipuric high tackle on Damian Penaud.
To their credit the Ospreys were still playing all their rugby, despite growing frustrations at some of the decisions being made by the officials and Cory Allen was desperately unlucky as he chased a grubber to the corner, only Strettle stopping him in the corner shortly after his return to the field.
They kept up the pressure though and a prolonged spell of knocking on the door just after the hour, sucking in defenders, eventually created space out wide where Evans was able to finish well, Biggar’s conversion taking him past 500 tournament points.
Clermont led by nine and they were visibly tiring as the Ospreys looked to keep the ball moving, and they grabbed their third try with 75 minutes on the clock, great running rugby and backs and forwards interlinking, Owen Watkin creating an overlap on the right for Evans to go over, dabbing down under the posts. Biggar dropped a quick conversion and the deficit was now just two points with under five minutes remaining.
As the clock ticked down, a scrum penalty on halfway allowed Scott Spedding to send over a long-range effort with just a minute to go, meaning the Ospreys needed a try to level it, with a conversion to win.
They rallied from the restart, winning a penalty in the 22. A tap and go took the hosts close to the line as the clock ran dead but they were unable to find a way over for a fourth try and had to settle for a losing bonus point.