European Rugby Champions Cup: Exeter Chiefs 8-35 Clermont Auvergne

Wesley Fofana
France centre Wesley Fofana crossed for two tries for Clermont
Exeter (3) 8
Try: Hill Pen: Steenson
Clermont (21) 35
Tries: Bardy, Nakaitaci, Fofana 2, Abendanon Cons: Parra 4

Exeter suffered a sobering defeat as Top 14 leaders Clermont racked up a bonus-point victory in their Champions Cup opener at Sandy Park.

The Chiefs struck first through Gareth Steenson's boot but Julien Bardy, Noa Nakaitaci and Wesley Fofana crossed for the French visitors before the break.

Former Bath full-back Nick Abendanon danced over and Fofana strolled over as Clermont stretched clear.

Sam Hill scored a late consolation that did little to mask a poor performance.

Clermont issue statement of intent

Clermont, runners-up in the 2013 and 2015 tournaments, finished bottom of their pool in last season's competition, but their cool execution in attack and steely determination in defence suggests they are real contenders in this campaign.

Pool Five
TeamPoints forPoints againstPoints
1. Clermont Auverne3585
2. Bordeaux-Begles28134
3. Ulster13280
4. Exeter8350

English duo Abendanon and wing David Strettle were just two of the potent threats in the backs with Nakaitaci and Fofana perhaps the pick of their strike runners.

Nakataci's neat offload set up the opening try for Bardy before the winger crossed himself as Abendanon's intelligent run-around created the extra man out wide.

Camille Lopez's dummy unlocked the hosts' defence for Fofana to cross just before the interval and Abendanon wrapped up the bonus point by rounding off good work from Stettle two minutes into the second half.

Fofana strolled through a gaping hole for his second in front of an eerily quiet Sandy Park.

Exeter fail to make most of sin-bin

Exeter's hopes of taking something from the match were ultimately snuffed out by their own inaccuracy rather than Clermont's brilliance.

With the French side 28-3 up and just under half an hour remaining, South African second row Flip Van Der Merwe was yellow-carded for coming into the side of a ruck in the shadow of his own posts.

But the Chiefs could not convert their numerical and territorial advantage into a comeback with Clermont defending fiercely before scrum-half Morgan Parra secured a turnover to release the pressure.

Van de Merwe returned with the scoreline unchanged and Exeter's belief fatally dented.

Points to ponder for Baxter

Exeter have won only twice in their first nine games of this season and director of rugby Rob Baxter is likely to have to shuffle his pack once again after impressive hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie was forced off with a twisted ankle after 29 minutes.

With wing Jack Nowell also out with a quad tear, one piece of good news for Baxter was that, even in defeat, his decision to drop centre Henry Slade to the bench in favour of Ollie Devoto appeared to pay off.

After Slade struggled in last weekend's draw with Gloucester, Devoto was a lively midfield presence for the first hour, making several half-breaks with his jagging side step.

When Slade arrived as a replacement, he looked sharper for his demotion and set up Hill for the final score with a well-timed pass.

Anthony Foley moment's silence
Both sides observed a minute's silence for Munster coach Anthony Foley - who died suddenly in Paris last night - before kick-off

What they said

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter: "Today feels a bit of a low to me, really, because I don't think that was a level of performance that is anything like we can achieve or have achieved in the past.

"I am not saying the boys are not working hard, but there were a lot of errors in there, and our Achilles' heel this season of conceding some soft points out of very innocuous situations reared its head again tonight.

"We've lost plenty of games - and against far worse teams than Clermont - in the time I've been coaching the club, but I am expecting us to be a bit angry with some of the things that went on out there tonight."

Teams

Exeter Chiefs: Lachlan Turner; Olly Woodburn, Ollie Devoto, Sam Hill, Ian Whitten; Gareth Steenson (c), Dave Lewis; Moray Low, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Harry Williams, Geoff Parling, Damian Welch, Kai Horstmann, Julian Salvi, Tom Waldrom

Replacements: Jack Yeandle, Carl Rimmer, Greg Holmes, Mitch Lees, Dave Dennis, Jack Maunder, Henry Slade, Max Bodilly

Clermont Auvergne: Nick Abendanon; David Strettle, Remi Lamerat, Wesley Fofana, Noa Nakaitaci; Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra; Thomas Domingo, Benjamin Kayser, Davit Zirakashvili, Flip Van Der Merwe, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly (c), Julien Bardy, Fritz Lee

Replacements: Nathan Charles, Etienne Falgoux, Clément Ric, Paul Jedrasiak, Alexandre Lapandry, Ludovic Radosavljevic , Pato Fernandez, Aurélien Rougerie

For the latest rugby union news follow @bbcrugbyunion on Twitter.

Top Stories