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Strettle scores as Clermont cruise in opener

Clermont Auvergne made a flying start to the new Top 14 season with a dominant 44-6 win over La Rochelle.

Last season's beaten finalists ran in five tries on the way to an easy away victory, with first-half scores from Paul Jedrasiak and Nick Abendanon putting the visitors in control.

Debutant David Strettle - who joined from Saracens in June - marked his bow with a 43rd-minute try before Julien Bardy and Arthur Iturria crossed to add further gloss to the scoreline.

Clermont fly-half Camile Lopez, perhaps spurred on by his Rugby World Cup omission by France, was superb from the tee, converting all five tries and adding a further two penalties.

The crushing victory lays down an early marker for Clermont's title rivals, notably in the face of Toulon's tight defeat to Racing Metro on Friday, and displayed the strength in depth available to coach Franck Azema with a string of star players on World Cup duty.

Toulouse, defeated by Clermont in the semi-finals of the 2014-15 campaign, also cruised to success as scores from Arthur Bonneval, Imanol Harinordoquy, and Yann David helped them overcome Brive 24-7.

Montpellier scored three second-half tries as they overturned a 16-13 half-time deficit to claim a 35-19 triumph over Oyonnax, while Bordeaux Begles held off a late rally from Castres to win their opener 19-16.

A converted try from Blair Connor and four Pierre Bernard penalties gave Bordeaux a 19-9 lead just after the hour mark and that proved to be enough despite Benjamin Desroches' try for Castres seven minutes from time.

Elsewhere, Grenoble put up 26 second-half points to defeat Agen 38-23.