Clermont Auvergne 46 Exeter 3
Clermont Auvergne ran in five tries to secure their place in the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup with a bonus-point victory over Exeter this evening.
The French giants led 20-3 at the break thanks to tries from Wesley Fofana and Jean-Marcellin Buttin.
Exeter fought bravely following the restart, but the pressure eventually told and Clermont ruthlessly completed the job with further touchdowns for Damien Chouly, David Skrela, Buttin and Napolioni Nalaga.
The victory, Clermont’s 54th in a row at Stade Marcel Michellin, secures their place in the quarter-finals as Pool Five winners and they can ensure a home draw in their final group-stage match against the Scarlets.
Gareth Steenson had the opportunity to open the scoring after just two minutes at Stade Marcel Michelin but he miscued the simple penalty.
He could have made amends minutes late but was again off target as the visitors failed to turn pressure into points.
And he was punished for his inaccuracy as Parra opened his account following a Fofana break.
The France centre was next on the scoresheet. He launched the attack following Sitiveni Sivivatu’s chip and finished it by collecting Regan King’s inside pass.
Parra made no mistake with the conversion and within a matter minutes the irrepressible hosts grabbed a second try.
Nalaga laid the foundations for the score with a powerful break in which he brushed off several defenders.
It put the Chiefs on the back foot and swift hands from King and Chouly sent Buttin crashing over.
Parra continued his faultless performance in front of the posts with the conversion and a further penalty.
But Steenson responded with the Chiefs’ first points to bring the scores to 20-3 at the break.
Clermont instantly laid siege to the Chiefs’ try line from the restart but Steenson pounced for an interception to alleviate the danger.
He found support but the English club were unable to capitalise on the break out. After being awarded a penalty they opted for several scrums but were again unable to turn pressure into points.
They hammered Clermont’s line and the hosts lost Thomas Domingo to the sin-bin but they were eventually penalised and the opportunity went begging.
Exeter continued to threaten as they dominated both territory and possession but they failed to get the scoreboard ticking.
But following a scoreless 20 minutes, normal service resumed as Clermont manufactured a third try.
They left Exeter in disarray with a mesmerising backs move, the ball was maintained with Clermont’s power runners crashing into the Chiefs wall and the pressure eventually told as Chouly stretched over.
Clermont rang the changes in the final quarter and it reinvigorated their cause, with three more tries comfortably wrapping up the bonus point.
Within seconds of coming on, Skrela danced passed Ignacio Mieres for the crucial fourth try.
Buttin claimed a sensational second try on 73 minutes as Ludovic Radosavljevic broke from the base of a ruck and fired a pinpoint pass to the full-back.
And Nalaga completed the rout at the death from close range.