Clermont blow Chiefs away
MATCH REPORT: Top 14 leaders Clermont Auvergne served up a five star performance to avenge their Sandy Park defeat in last season's Champions Cup and kick-off their Pool Five campaign with a 35-8 victory against the Exeter Chiefs.
The Chiefs had not only beaten the two-time finalists 31-14 at home last year, but also pipped them to the quarterfinal spot from their Pool. This time they were never at the races.
Despite taking a seventh minute lead with the wind at their backs through a Gareth Steenson penalty, the Chiefs conceded three tries in the first half and a further two after the break as they were made to wait 73 minutes before finally adding to their early score.
There were two tries from French centre Wesley Fofana, matching his performance at Sandy Park in his side's 46-12 triumph, but the physicality of the Clermont pack as the biggest difference between the two teams. They laid the platform and the back line did the rest.
Back-row man Julien Bardy scored the first try after 25 minutes as he picked up an inside pas from wing Noa Nakataci off his boot laces to score in the left corner. Morgan Parrs added a magnificent touchline conversion.
Once they got their noses in front the Frenchmen never looked back. Forwards coach Jonno Gibbes revealed they had opted to play into the wind to try to stop the Chiefs getting ahead in the opening quarter and their plan worked perfectly.
Nakataci was next to score as he profited from a break into the home 22 by Camile Lopez and then Fofana grabbed a third try two minutes before the break. Parra converted both tries and Clermont led 21-3 at half-time.
The second half saw England fullback Nick Abendanon bring up the bonus point for the visitors with a thrilling try at the posts after some magnificent off-loading. Parra added the simple conversion and the strength of the French team's defence kept on squeezing mistakes out of the Chiefs and frustrating them.
It meant Fofana was able to slice through the hoe midfield to cross for his second try at the posts following a scrum five and Pato Fernandez' conversion made it 35-3. The Chiefs were down, but not quite out.
To their credit they kept on playing and were rewarded with an 80th minute try from Sam Hill. The conversion attempt from Henry Slade summed up the home performance as it headed off somewhere towards the far corner flag.
For Exeter Chiefs:
For Clermont Auvergne:
Tries: Bardy, Nakaitaci, Fofana 2, Abendanon
Cons: Parra 4, Fernandez
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Kai Horstmann, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Moray Low
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Max Bodilly
ASM Clermont Auvergne: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 David Strettle, 13 Remi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Damien Chouly, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Flip Van Der Merwe, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Clément Ric, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic , 22 Pato Fernandez, 23 Aurélien Rougerie
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)