Exeter stun Clermont with a 31-14 win in the Champions Cup
Last Updated: 12/12/15 11:45pm
Exeter fought back from 14-3 down to claim a bonus point 31-14 win against Clermont and go top of Pool 2 in the Champions Cup.
Exeter's win was built on their uncompromising scrum and lineout with No 8 Thomas Waldrom scoring two tries from excellent driving mauls.
Don Armand also got into the act with a pick and drive from two metres out for the Chiefs third try in the 73rd minute and then claimed the bonus point try with time up on the clock as lock Mitch Lee crashed over. Fly-half Gareth Steenson added three conversions plus a penalty.
Clermont played their part in a riveting match as Hosea Gear and Aurélien Rougerie scored two excellent tries while Morgan Parra added one conversion.
The last time the sides met in Devon, three years ago, the French side handed out a harsh lesson with a 46-12 mauling, however Exeter showed just how much they have progressed since then.
Exeter were forced to make a late change as Sam Hill pulled up in the warm-up, so Nowell switched to centre as new England coach Eddie Jones was on hand to watch their triumph.
The Chiefs looked to have got off to the perfect start after the barged over Clermont's line with a text book rolling maul, however TMO Simon McDowell was unable to clearly see the ball ground.
Clermont hit back almost immediately as Hosea Gear ran a great line off Lopez to score under the posts for the opening try. Scrum-half Morgan Parra added the extras but Gareth Steenson pulled three points back three minutes later from in front of the posts.
The signs for Exeter looked ominous as Aurelien Rougerie got on the end of a smart Noa Nakaitaci chip to score Clermont's second try.
The Chiefs rallied though and were patient as the built through the phases with Waldrom, burrowing over for his first try. Steenson defied the wind to convert and the hosts went into the break just four points off.
The second half comeback started when Waldrom powered over for a try which Steenson converted, before Woodburn's try-saving tackle denied Peceli Yato.
Exeter were reduced to 14 men when international referee John Lacey sent Phil Dollman to the sin-bin for 10 minutes - and Yato followed him for a high tackle on replacement Dave Lewis.
Armand crossed in the 73rd minute to deny Clermont a losing bonus point before Lees secured the bonus point try with time up on the clock. Steenson again converted to seal a magnificent victory for the Devon side ahead of next Sunday's return leg.