- Team Icon
- Team Name
- Exeter Chiefs
- Team Score
- Team Icon
- Team Name
- Clermont Auvergne
- Team Score
Exeter Chiefs 12
Clermont Auvergne 46
Mark Stevens at Sandy Park
Exeter Chiefs’s first taste of Heineken Cup rugby in Devon turned sour as French visitors Clermont Auvergne served up a Saturday night treat at Sandy Park.
Vern Cotter’s side were in inspired form as they ran in six tries – five of them in the second half – to maintain pole position of Pool 5 after the first two round.
The hosts led 12-10 at half-time through four Gareth Steenson (pictured) penalties, with Clermont replying via a Napolioni Nalaga try and Morgan Parra’s boot.
However, two tries soon after the break from French internationals Wesley Fofana and Julien Bonnaire, helped put the visitors in command of proceedings.
As the Chiefs chased the game in the final quarter, Clermont showed their undoubted qualities as they wrapped up victory with further tries from Sitiveni Sivivatu, Fofana and Nalaga.
Having kicked off their Heineken Cup campaign with a narrow 9-6 defeat at reigning champions Leinster, Baxter sent out an unchanged line-up for this latest European encounter against the French giants.
Initially Baxter had opted to hand Australian international Dean Mumm his first cup start for the club, but the experienced lock was forced to withdraw from the squad pre-match for family reasons. It meant Hanks retained his spot in the starting XV, whilst summer signing Damian Welch was included for the first time this season.
Clermont, meanwhile, were forced to make one change to their side which had seen off Scarlets seven days earlier. It came in the second row where Scottish international Nathan Hines, who was this week banned for six weeks following a citing charge from that game, was replaced by Julien Pierre.
Even without Hines, it was still a formidable Clermont outfit, which included 13 internationals, that took to the field.
Buoyed by a near capacity crowd, the Chiefs were quickly into their stride as they set about last season’s semi-finalists with a real gusto. Indeed, just three minutes had elapsed when Steenson stroked the hosts in front with the first of four successful first half kicks.
The Irishman dispatched a stunning 48 metre effort after the Frenchmen infringed at a ruck; then he repeated the feat just moments later when Irish referee John Lacey again pulled up the visitors for coming in at the side.
It was the ideal start for the European newcomers, but Clermont were themselves showing signs of their attacking abilities, the fruits of which won them a penalty on 15 minutes. Scrum-half Parra, however, was unable to capitalise, pulling his first shot at the target wide of the mark.
Exeter’s let-off proved shortlived as having been saved by a great last-gasp from winger Ian Whitten on Nalaga, the visitors struck off the very next move. A lost line-out from the Chiefs saw the French pounce with the imposing Nalaga powering his way over for the opening try, which Parra duly converted from wide on the left touchline.
Undeterred, back roared the Chiefs as more impressive running from the likes of Jason Shoemark, Phil Dollman and Luke Arscott created the opening for yet another penalty, which Steenson sent over on 25 minutes to make it 9-7.
Although it was a slender buffer, Exeter were certainly impressing against their more illustrious counterparts. And whilst their attacks didn’t result in any tries, a fourth penalty just past the half-hour mark helped to stretch their lead.
If that was all good for the Chiefs, they were dealt a blow just before the interval when all-action No.8 Richard Baxter was shown yellow for what Lacey deemed was a cynical act of killing the ball. Up stepped Parra to land the resultant penalty to leave just two points in it at the break.
HALF TIME EXETER CHIEFS 12 CLERMONT AUVERGNE 10
With seemingly little to choose between the two sides in the first period, it was the visitors who flexed their muscles swiftly on the resumption.
Nalaga threatened with their first chance, only to be denied by a saving tackle by Steenson, before French star Fofana finally made the breakthrough when he was able to coast over in the left-hand corner.
Fofana’s converted effort was not without controvery. In the initial build-up Shoemark was clearly taken out off the ball as he appeared to make a tackle; then the centre himself appeared to have a foot in touch as he closed in on the whitewash.
Incensed by the decision, the home faithful could not complain about Clermont’s third score which arrived on 53 minutes when flanker Bonnaire, who was later named the game’s man-of-the-match, was the benefactor of a slick handling move to go over in the right corner to make it 25-12.
The ruthless efficiency of the visitors was clear to see and although the Chiefs did their best to try and force their way back into the contest, again they were picked off in the closing moments as Clermont ran in two more scores to take their tally to six for the game.
The impressive Fofana claimed his second of the night as he was able to intercept a pass from Exeter replacement Sireli Naqelevuki just inside his own half before racing clear of the home cover to score.
French international David Skrela added the extras to that score and Clermont’s final effort which came with the last action of the game. With the visitors pressing hard deep inside Exeter’s 22, the Chiefs initially dug deep to keep the visiting threat at bay. However, when a quickly taken penalty had Exeter in all kinds of troubles, Ignacio Mieres became the second home player to be sent to the sidelines as his deliberate knock-on left referee Lacey will little option.
With the man advantage, Clermont put the shine on a very polished performance as Nalaga forced his way over from close range to seal a comfortable success.
Chiefs: L Arscott; I Whitten, P Dollman, J Shoemark (S Naqelevuki 55), M Jess; G Steenson (I Mieres 63), H Thomas (W Chudley 60, B Moon 69); B Sturgess, S Alcott (C Whitehead h/t), C Rimmer (C Budgen 35-40, 76); T Hayes (capt), J Hanks (D Welch 63); T Johnson (A Muldowney 63), J Scaysbrook, R Baxter
Penalties - Steenson (4)
Yellow Cards: Baxter, Mieres
Clermont: L Byrne; S Sivivatu, A Rougerie (capt, B Stanley 60), W Fofana, N Nalaga; B James (D Skrela 67), M Parra (L Radosavljevic 73); T Domingo (V Debaty 47), B Kayser (T Paulo 60), D Zirakashvili (D Kotze 63); J Cudmore (L Jacquet 69), J Pierre; G Vosloo (E Vermeulen 28), J Bonnaire, D Chouly
Tries - Nalaga (2), Fofana (2), Bonnaire, Sivivatu; Conversions - Parra (3), Skrela (2); Penalties - Parra (2)
Referee: J Lacey (IRFYU)
Touch Judges: P Haycock & B MacNiece
4th Official: A Pearce
UP NEXT FOR THE CHIEFS v Bath (A), Aviva Premiership, Saturday, October 27 (2.30pm)