Clermont produced an outstanding first half as they powered past Exeter Chiefs to secure a home quarter-final with a 48-26 win.
The hosts were irresistible in the first-half. Tries from Benjamin Kayser, Noa Nakaitaci, Wesley Fofana and Nick Abendanon were added to a penalty try to secure a bonus-point before the break.
Even with the result out of sight Exeter rallied and showed their best rugby to score four second-half tries. James Short and Ollie Devoto’s tries were added to by tries from Michele Campagnaro and Olly Woodburn to secure a losing bonus point.
Despite their visitors’ resurgence the hosts never looked truly threatened and tries from Peceli Yato and Alexandre Lapandry rounded off an impressive victory to secure safe passage to the quarter finals as top seeds.
Exeter got off to a terrible start. Jack Yeandle’s overthrown line-out falling into the arms of Kayser who ran clean through to open the scoring with a try in just the second minute. Morgan Parra converted to establish an early seven-point lead.
The 2015 runners-up scored their second in the eighth minute. Yato drove the French side forward before the ball was worked out wide to Remi Lamerat who set-up Nakaitaci to score in the corner. Parra missed the conversion to leave the score at 12-0.
After 28 minutes Clermont were awarded a penalty try. Woodburn was deemed to have slapped the ball out of play, denying the home side a certain try in the eyes of referee Andrew Brace. Alongside the penalty try, Woodburn was sent to the sin-bin as Parra added a simple conversion to make the score 22-0.
Exeter were reduced to 13-men in the 31st minute, Devoto was sent to the sin-bin for a nasty high tackle on Abendanon. Clermont capitalised through Fofana as a good move gifted the centre a try. Parra converted before Abendanon rounded off first-half proceedings with a good finish to make the half-time score a resounding 34-0.
The Chiefs roared out of the second-half blocks, Devoto brought the ball forward before it was worked to Short who finished to score the first try of the second half after just two minutes.
The hosts struck back, Yato peeling off the back of a line-out to score a good try. Parra converted to make the score 41-7.
A great, flowing move gave Lapandry the chance to score for Clermont in the 50th minute. Parra’s conversion took the score to 48-7.
Devoto added a second for Exeter on the hour mark as Exeter pushed to gain a losing bonus-point. Steenson’s conversion made the score 48-14.
Exeter continued to rally when, in the 65th minute, Woodburn returned from his earlier indiscretion to run down the short-side and score his side’s third. Joe Simmonds converted to cut the score to 48-21.
Italy international Campagnaro completed the scoring with a 68th minute try, running down the right wing to cross the whitewash and secure the bonus-point.
Tries: Kayser, Nakaitaci, Penalty Try, Fofana, Abendanon, Yato, Lapandry
Cons: Parra 5
Tries: Short, Devoto, Woodburn, Campagnaro
Cons: Steenson 2, Simmonds
Yellow Cards: Woodburn, Devoto
Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Rémi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Nick Abendanon, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra (c), 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Arthur Iturria, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Raphael Chaume
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Davit Zirakashvili, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22 Aurélien Rougerie, 23 Alivereti Raka
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Kai Horstmann, 6 Don Armand, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Moray Low, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Ian Whitten, 23 Joe Simmonds
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Kieran Barry (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)