Clermont have won rave reviews for how they played, putting three tries and 27 unanswered points past the Saints in a first half that saw the French outfit combine power, pace and accuracy in a way that had some journalists comparing them to the All Blacks.
It was not just in attack where Damien Chouly and his team were on top; their defence was exceptional, too, and while the Saints did have their moments in and around the hosts’ 22, the pressure was fleeting before Clermont nullified any danger.
To their credit Saints refused to fold, Alex Waller scoring a try six minutes past the hour mark. But by then it was just a consolation score, with the famed Stade Marcel Michelin crowd living up to its reputation with a continuous cacophony of noise to acclaim their team throughout the evening.
“We were well beaten and a lot of credit has to go to Clermont,” Mallinder told BBC Radio Northampton. “They came out and put us under pressure. They put us under pressure in the scrum, our kicking game was poor - we didn’t chase very well or compete for the ball in the air - and that allowed their dangerous players to counter-attack and cut us to shreds.
“There were outstanding in all areas. They were very physical at the breakdown and turned us over as soon as we didn’t have enough numbers, and their attack was brilliant.
“It’s a fantastic rugby club here. They’ve got a great team, passionate supporters who get behind the team, and they thoroughly deserved to beat us like that today.
“We did come back into it a bit in the second half, got a bit of ball and scored a try with them only scoring one, but you’ve got to look at the first half.
“When you come out to a place like this you’ve got to get everything right. It’s about building pressure and we didn’t build pressure at all. So when you’re turning around 27 points down at half-time the game is over.”
The dressing room was understandably quiet after the game, but Mallinder says that there is no time for the team to get too downhearted or dispirited, not least with a challenging Aviva Premiership run-in that continues at Exeter next Sunday.
The Saints have had some big reverses in Europe before, only to turn them around seven days later, and Mallinder believes that this can be done at Sandy Park.
“You have to move on very quickly and learn the lessons,” he added. “We’ve got to do that and focus on one thing, and that’s retaining the Aviva Premiership. We’ve got to be better, because we’ve got some big games coming up, and if we want to win the Premiership for a second time we’ve got to improve in those areas.
“But we know we can do it. We’ve come back from bad defeats in the past and I’m sure this group of lads can do it again.”