European Champions Cup: Exeter 31-14 Clermont Auvergne
|European Champions Cup Rugby|
|Exeter Chiefs 31 (10)|
|Tries: Waldrom 2, Armand, Lees Cons: Steenson 4 Pens: Steenson|
|Clermont Auvergne 14 (14)|
|Tries: Gear, Rougerie Cons: Parra 2|
Thomas Waldrom's two tries inspired Exeter Chiefs to a remarkable European Champions Cup win over last season's runners-up Clermont Auvergne.
Clermont led early on with scores for Hosea Gear and Aurelien Rougerie.
But Gareth Steenson's penalty put the Chiefs on the board before Waldrom's brace, Don Armand's effort and Mitch Lees' late try secured a bonus point.
Exeter, watched by England head coach Eddie Jones, are level on points with Ospreys at the top of Pool Two.
The opening exchanges had looked ominous for the Chiefs, with Clermont carving out two stylish tries.
The first came when Camille Lopez's delayed pass put in Gear, who then played a part in the second by offloading to Noa Nakaitaci whose chip through was touched down by Rougerie.
But Exeter, finding success at the line-out, twice made tries from aggressive use of the catch and drive, and both times Waldrom was on hand to expertly apply the finishing touch.
The Chiefs had never played in Europe's elite competition until three years ago, but they enhanced their growing reputation by finishing off the Top 14 leaders with close-range tries from Armand and Lees.
Chiefs impress in front of England boss
Jones will name his first England squad next month before the Six Nations in February, and the Australian would have been interested to see Jack Nowell, whose 10 Test caps have come on the wing, sparkle at centre for Exeter.
There may be a spot in the England squad to vie for after Chiefs team-mate Henry Slade's broken leg, and Nowell found plenty of room in the number 13 shirt, showing an eagerness to make breaks.
But it is the continued revitalisation of Waldrom, 32, that may have given Jones an unexpected candidate for his squad.
The New Zealand-born number eight, the last of whose five England appearances came in 2013, has been monumental for Exeter since joining them last season.
And this all-action performance, capped by two tries to follow his hat-trick against Wasps last week, could well put him back into international contention.
View from the dressing room
Exeter back Jack Nowell said: "It is very simple for me in terms of England, just to focus on playing well for Exeter because Eddie Jones will be looking at as many games as possible and the only way to get picked is to play well for your club.
"So the big thing for me is to put England selection to the back of my mind and focus on playing well for Exeter.
"Playing in big European games is crucial to that and to Exeter because we are an ambitious team this year."
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter said: "That is what we worked really hard to be in the Premiership for and what we worked hard to get into this European competition for. It's for nights like this one and I think that we have made the most of the occasion.
"Being 14-10 down at half time was a good score for us, thanks to the try just before the break.
"The important thing was the physicality at the breakdown - the game was won and lost in that area - if we hadn't managed to up our level at the breakdown, it would have been a very long night."
Exeter: Dollman; Nowell, Whitten, Hill, Short; Steenson, Chudley; Moon, Yeandle, Francis; Lees, Welch; Armand, Salvi, Waldrom.
Replacements: Lewis for Chudley (65), Rimmer for Moon (64), Taione for Yeandle (66), Low for Francis (64), Parling for Welch (60), Johnson for Waldrom (66).
Not Used: Hooley, Woodburn.
Sin bin: Dollman (64).
Clermont Auvergne: Spedding; Strettle, Rougerie, Gear,Nakaitaci; Lopez, Parra; Domingo, Ulugia, Ric; Jedrasiak, Vahaamahina; Yato, Kolelishvili, Chouly.
Replacements: Vulivuli for Rougerie (41), Fernandez for Lopez (64), Radosavljevic for Parra (75), Chaume for Domingo (48), van der Westhuizen for Ulugia (59), Kotze for Ric (59), Cancoriet for Vahaamahina (70).
Not Used: Van der Merwe.
Sin bin: Yato (69).
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland).