Exeter Chiefs 41 Montpellier 10
If there are ever thoughts of another tunnel being dug beneath the English Channel, then the Exeter Chiefs pack could well put in a tender for the role.
Rob Baxter's juggernaut set of forwards have become past masters in the art of digging deep to extract rich rewards.
Against visiting Montpellier, the English champions were ruthless in their execution of duty, delivering a six-try victory that kept alive their hopes of qualification in this season's European Champions Cup.
Having led just 7-0 at the break thanks to a converted try from Dave Ewers, Devon's finest were majestic in the second period adding further scores from Sam Simmonds, Olly Woodburn (2), Nic White and Don Armand.
Skipper Gareth Steenson and young replacement Joe Simmonds slotted the remainder of the home side's points, while all Montpellier could muster in terms of a response was a late try from Nemani Nadolo, plus five points from the boot of All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden.
Returning to European action knowing nothing less than victory would be enough for them to stand any chance of advancing in the competition, Baxter’s side was boosted for the visit of the Frenchmen by the return of several frontline stars.
Ben Moon, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Harry Williams all came into the front-row, Jonny Hill was added at lock, while Armand was another notable addition to the back-row. Behind them, international duo Henry Slade and Lachie Turner was also on from the outset having missed the previous week’s defeat to Newcastle Falcons in the league.
Montpellier, having leapfrogged the Chiefs to second in Pool 3 following their back-to-back victories over Glasgow Warriors last month, were fully loaded for only their second-ever visit to Sandy Park.
Experienced No.8 Louis Picamoles led them into battle, but he was joined in the ranks by a list of world rugby galaticos, including the likes of Cruden, Francois Steyn, Bismarck Du Plessis and the imposing Nadolo, himself no stranger to the Devon turf having spent a brief spell with the Chiefs back in 2011.
With a stiff breeze at their backs in the first period, Montpellier looked to make the most of the conditions during the early stages. The Chiefs, however, were having none of it and countered their attacking threat with a powerful ‘Pink Wall’ of defence that forced their rivals into a series of handling errors.
For the full match report, go to https://www.exeterchiefs.co.uk/news/chiefs-41-montpellier-10