Five tries in the final 20 minutes saw Exeter keep their European hopes alive with a rampant 41-10 win over Montpellier in Pool 3.
It took almost half-an-hour for anyone to break the deadlock, but Dave Ewers did just that with the first try for the Chiefs, going over by the posts for a 7-0 lead at the break.
Sam Simmonds increased that lead with a second try, Montpellier only able to add a penalty to their starting score in a poor first 60 minutes.
Olly Woodburn wrapped victory up with two further tries, sealing the bonus point before Nic White struck against his former club for a fifth, and a sixth from Don Armand completed the rout at Sandy Park. A late try from Nemani Nadolo could only make it 41-10 at the final whistle.
With a host of returning first-team players, Exeter came into this one with plenty of work to do to keep their European hopes alive. Four points behind Montpellier, they knew that only victory would be enough to cling onto the possibility of making the knockouts.
And after their disappointing loss to Newcastle last week, the hosts had to come out of this one quickly if they were to blow away Montpellier, a side they beat on their own turf earlier in the European campaign.
But it was a very quiet start, with the first 15 minutes split straight down the middle without a point on the board. The French side did look probably the more dangerous though, although Louis Picamoles and Nadolo were both held up when space came their way.
Exeter were certainly growing into it and began to force Montpellier’s backline further back as the half went on. And they almost grabbed the first try on 23 minutes, as they flooded forward amid a scrum six metres out. But although bodies went through, the ball didn’t follow and Montpellier managed to escape without conceding.
The hosts were only held out for four minutes, as they found the line and struck first blood. A high kick forward had Montpellier again on the back foot, and after pushing and pushing, it was Ewers who went over from a couple of metres out. Gareth Steenson added the gloss as the Chiefs had a 7-0 lead.
It looked like that lead was extended prior to half-time. A clearance was charged down deep inside the Montpellier territory, and Lachie Turner grounded. But celebrations were cut short by the TMO who spotted a foot out in the process, and Chiefs had to settle for the seven-point lead going into the second-half.
The visitors came out after the restart looking dangerous though and it was Chiefs who found themselves pegged back towards their own posts. They also found their lead cut, with the French side getting themselves started. A penalty from Aaron Cruden made it 7-3 10 minutes into the half. But Chiefs weren’t about to let their lead slip and they followed that disappointment with their second try.
Simmonds it was this time who went over from close with the TMO giving the all clear, Steenson adding the two for a 14-3 lead and settling Chiefs nerves a little more. And the points looked to be wrapped up thanks to a wonderful try from Woodburn. He rose highest and found the line for try number three, going over on the left wing as the lead grew to 19-3.
And the all important bonus point swiftly followed. Having previously been denied by the TMO, Chiefs grabbed their fourth when Woodburn struck again. Montpellier were being blown away by a dominant Chiefs side, and Steenson’s kick made it a deserved 26-3 lead.
Things got even better with a fifth try on 68 minutes. Against his former employers, White had space in the corner to add further misery to Montpellier’s trip, having been utterly outclassed against a much-improved Exeter side.
Chiefs still has time to find the line again. Armand was the man in possession at the crucial point after a scrum five metres out, Joe Simmonds almost completing the hosts scoring. Montpellier’s Nadolo went over in the final moments for a consolation effort, but the afternoon firmly belonged to Exeter, as shown when Simmonds finished the afternoon with a further three points.
Tries: Ewers, S Simmonds, Woodburn 2, White, Armand
Cons: Steenson 3, J Simmonds
Pen: J Simmonds
Exeter: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Toby Salmon, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Phil Dollman
Montpellier: 15 Henry Immelman, 14 Gabriel N'gandebe, 13 Frans Steyn, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Gela Aprasidze, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Julien Bardy, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Nicholaas Van Rensburg, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Grégory Fichten, 18 Mohamed Haouas, 19 Julien Delannoy, 20 Kelian Galletier, 21 Jesse Mogg, 22 Joe Tomane, 23 Benjamin Fall
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
Television match official: Neil Hennessy (Wales)