Clermont make light of Parra red card to extend lead
Clermont's French scrum-half Morgan Parra (left) looks on before throwing-in during the French Top 14 rugby union match against Grenoble on February 14, 2014 in Grenoble - by Romain Lafabregue
However, for scrum-half Morgan Parra, the victory will have a bitter-sweet taste.
His red card for headbutting Rene Ranger midway through the first half could well cost him a call-up to the France squad, after coach Philippe Saint-Andre had dropped a heavy hint that he would feature in the Six Nations match with Scotland in a fortnight.
Despite his red card, Clermont pulled away from Montpellier to record their 73rd straight win at the Marcel-Michelin Stadium and halt Montpellier's winning run at three matches.
Clermont's win extended their lead to seven points over Montpellier although Stade Francais can narrow the gap later if they beat Oyonnax later on Saturday.
Montpellier suffered a double blow in the fourth minute as Lucas Dupont was yellow-carded and Parra slotted over the resulting penalty.
Former Clermont favourite Anthony Floch levelled two minutes later.
Parra punished another moment of ill-discipline in the 12th minute to put Clermont 6-3 up.
Clermont then put a wonderful move together in the 15th minute for their first try.
It was sparked by a stunning run from Fijian star Napolioni Nalaga, who raced 50 metres with the ball before being caught short of the line.
However, the ball was worked back and veteran lock Nathan Hines unselfishly passed inside to Aurelien Rougerie, the former France centre touching down for his first try of the season and 96th of his career.
Parra for once failed with the kick to leave Clermont 11-3 up while Floch kept Montpellier in the game with a second penalty for 11-6.
Tempers boiled over in the 25th minute when Clermont were awarded a free kick and Rene Ranger tackled Parra without retreating the required 10 metres, lifting him high up in the air and bringing him crashing to the ground. Parra reacted by headbutting Ranger.
After long deliberation, Ranger was sin-binned but Parra was given a straight red card much to the fury of the partisan crowd.
However, Clermont reacted positively scoring two tries in quick succession, both by Welsh star Lee Byrne -- both converted by Brock James.
Montpellier's indiscipline degenerated further as shortly after Byrne's second try, captain Francois Trinh-Duc became their third player to be sin-binned in the first-half for an altercation with Hines.
Clermont added another two tries in the second half while Montpellier also got a couple, Dupont and Ranger redemeing themselves for their first-half sin-binning but it was not enough to deny the hosts the attacking bonus point.