Exeter 31-14 Clermont: Waldrom touches down brace as Chiefs overcome Clermont in cracker
Exeter came from behind to claim a 31-14 bonus point victory against Clermont
The French visitors had led 14-10 at the break thanks to tries from Hosea Gear and Aurelien Rougerie
A brace from Thomas Waldrom plus scores from Don Armand and Mitch Lees though secured the historic bonus-point win for the Chiefs
The win puts Exeter right in the hunt for qualification to the knockout rounds
England head coach Eddie Jones was in attendance at Sandy Park
Exeter Chiefs came from behind to earn a famous 31-14 bonus point victory in the European Rugby Champions Cup against Clermont Auvergne at Sandy Park.
England’s new head coach Eddie Jones watched Europe’s most upwardly club record the greatest win in their history, which was built upon their strong scrum and lineout, but it was actually Clermont who started the better.
The French visitors exciting open rugby saw them race into a 14-3 lead through tries from Hosea Gear and Aurelien Rougerie, which were both converted by Morgan Parra
Exeter though, increasingly, steadied themselves through their lineout and scrum and were able to reduce the half-time deficit when Thomas Waldrom managed to force the ball down with Gareth Steenson adding the conversion to his earlier penalty, 10-14.
The Chiefs were then unstoppable after the break as Waldrom bagged his brace before tries from Don Armand and Mitch Lees secured an incredible bonus-point win. Steenson converted all three second half scores to complete the hosts total.
Clermont opened the scoring after eight minutes as Gear skipped inside the defensive cover after combining with Camille Lopez off a solid scrum to dive over. Fly-Half Parra converted to give the visitors an early seven-point lead, 0-7.
Gareth Steenson narrowed the gap to four points for Exeter soon after as Damien Chouly failed to roll away from an attacking ruck.
However, the visitors edged further in front through Rougerie after 18 minutes, as Gear wriggled free to offload to winger Noa Nakaitaci, who chipped the ball behind the defence for winger Rougerie to collect and dot down. Parra added the extras in off the post for the visitors, 3-14.
Exeter though were able to reduce the deficit as Waldrom burrowed over after a patient but stylish build-up after 34 minutes. Steenson then nailed the resulting conversion to cut the gap to four points going into half-time.
Exeter began the second-half as they ended the first with Waldrom again touching down six minutes after the restart. The big number 8 emerged from the pile of bodies with the score after Clermont sacked the initial drive. Steenson again added the extras to give the hosts a three-point lead, 17-14.
The home crowd sensed a famous victory and that feeling grew when Exeter ground out a third try after 73 minutes. The ball passed through a number of phases from a scrum before Armand crossed close to the posts. Steenson added the extras to put the Chiefs clear.
The home faithful though did still have time to rise to their feet again, as the fourth and final try came from Lees to seal the bonus point, with the extra two from Steenson ensuring a big home victory.
Exeter thoroughly deserved to beat last year’s finalists and one of the hot favourites for this year’s tournament, which puts the Chiefs right into the hunt for qualification to the knockout rounds.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Exeter Chiefs: Thomas Waldrom
Waldrom was magnificent, shaping Exeter’s powerful performance as they overcame Clermont in what was a thoroughly entertaining game. This all-action performance from the New Zealand-born number 8, capped by two tries to follow his hat-trick against Wasps last week, could well also put him back into international contention with Jones watching on from the stands.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Moray Low, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Olly Woodburn.
Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Hosea Gear, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Vito Kolelishvili, 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 3 Clément Ric, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Marthinius Van Der Westhuizen, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Flip Van Der Merwe, 20 Judicaël Cancoriet, 21 Ludovic Radoslavjevic, 22 Pato Fernandez, 23 Albert Vulivuli.
Date: Saturday, December 12
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Nigel Correll (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)