HEINEKEN CUP Exeter 12 ASM Clermont Auvergne 46

Exeter Chiefs Rugby logoUnder yellow and blue twilight skies that would have inspired the old masters, Montferrand brought their own brand of Gallic rugby artistry to Sandy Park.

By the time dusk had cloaked Devon, the stars we marvelled at were modern day artists with names to match – Bonnaire, Rougerie, Parra and Fofana - as French flair overcame Exeter endeavour.

Ultimately this was inspirational top 15-man rugby from a Top 14 side.

A handful of second half tries may have flattered L'ASM but their industry and skill did more to illuminate this historic Heineken Cup occasion – a peninsula first - than the towering bright lights above us in the night sky.

It also thrilled thousands gathered to see if Exeter's Irish pluck – a narrow opening 9-6 defeat at hat-trick chasing champions Leinster seven days earlier – could overcome an ASM Clermont Auvergne side beaten just twice in the competition's pool stages in three seasons.

At half-time there was home hope. Fly half Gareth Steenson temporarily edged Exeter 12-10 ahead by sweeping over four penalties as France's gifted scrum half Morgan Parra atoned for an early miss by converting Fijian flyer Napolioni Nalaga's try and adding a penalty.

However by full time few were left in any doubt how Aurélien Rougerie's Les Jaunards had pushed Brian O'Driscoll's boys in blue so close in last season's semis.

Clermont "flicked on a switch" during the interval and their electric pace – typified by two-try Nagala – enabled them to accelerate away from Chiefs and into the night air . . .

Une bonne nuit pour Julien Bonnaire!

SWSN star man Julien Bonnaire

Exeter scores Pens Steenson 4

ASM Clermont Auvergne Tries Nalaga 2, Fofana 2, Bonnaire, Sivivatu; cons Parra 3 Skrela 2; pens Parra 2

Attendance 9819

• Exeter can only gain from the eight day experience of playing Europe's top two sides in a row ahead of next Saturday's Aviva Premiership Westcountry derby at Bath (The Rec 1430).

Jess relishing European experience

 

 

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