|European Champions Cup Pool Three|
|Exeter (7) 41|
|Tries: Ewers, S Simmonds, Woodburn (2), White, Armand Cons: Steenson 3, J Simmonds Pen: J Simmonds|
|Montpellier (0) 10|
|Try: Nadolo Con: Cruden Pen: Cruden|
Exeter secured a potentially crucial bonus point as they beat Montpellier to keep alive their hopes of reaching the European Champions Cup quarter-finals.
The Premiership leaders scored six tries, five of which came in the second half, against their subdued Top 14 counterparts at Sandy Park.
The win moved Exeter second in Pool Three, one point ahead of Montpellier.
They play Glasgow in their final game next week, while the French side face unbeaten pool leaders Leinster.
If Leinster beat Glasgow on Sunday they will qualify for the last eight as pool winners, while Exeter could join them as one of the best second-placed teams if they beat the Scots.
Mission accomplished for Exeter
Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter had described Saturday’s match as “win or bust” – a win would have been good, but this bonus-point victory is potentially priceless.
The first half featured numerous handling errors and turnovers from both sides as they struggled in wet and windy conditions.
The Chiefs kept it tight to score the opening try – flanker Dave Ewers driving over from two metres out, five minutes after Luke Cowan-Dickie had dropped the ball diving for the line.
They led 7-0 at half-time, but Aaron Cruden reduced the deficit with a penalty as Montpellier finally got on the scoreboard in the 53rd minute.
It was virtually one-way traffic from then on, though, with the Chiefs relentless in their pressure.
First Sam Simmonds forced his way over in front of the posts, then Olly Woodburn went over twice in six minutes – diving over in the corner from Gareth Steenson’s long pass, then charging over Henry Immelman to somehow touch down.
Scrum-half Nic White nipped down the blindside for their fifth try on 70 minutes, and five minutes later Don Armand drove over for the sixth.
|Quarter-finalists as it stands as of 13 January|
|Pool leaders (qualify automatically)||Second-placed teams (best three to qualify)|
|Ulster 17 points (Pool One)||La Rochelle 16 points (Pool One)|
|Clermont 18 points (Pool Two)||Ospreys 15 points (Pool Two)|
|Leinster 18 points (Pool Three)||Exeter 14 points (Pool Three)|
|Munster 15 points (Pool Four)||Bath 13 points (Pool Five)|
|Scarlets 17 points (Pool Five)||Racing 92 11 points (Pool Four)|
Montpellier had started the match second in the pool but failed to fire against the Premiership leaders and were outmuscled up front.
Injuries meant 19-year-old Georgian Gela Aprasidze made his debut at scrum-half, while former All Blacks fly-half Cruden struggled to influence proceedings.
Wing Nemani Nadolo was largely nullified but the 21 stone, 6ft 4in Fijian did manage a late try, jumping high to collect Jesse Mogg’s kick to score in the corner.
That was little more than consolation, and Vern Cotter’s side are likely to be eliminated no matter what happens against Leinster.
‘We are aiming for 19 points’
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter: “We played with fantastic discipline and that score before half-time [from Ewers] was crucial. Our emotion and physical intensity was terrific and we grew in confidence.
“The reality is that qualification will go beyond our pool but we’ve got to aim for 19 points, which means a bonus point next week.
“We are unlikely to top our pool as Leinster are likely to get the points to win it but we have given ourselves a shout of qualification.
“We could do with a few shocks or a few draws but there is no doubt that Glasgow have targeted next week’s game as they have rested a few on Sunday and will have all their leading players back against us before they leave for the Six Nations.”
Montpellier head coach Vern Cotter said: “We weren’t effective and we didn’t follow our systems through and paid a heavy price.
“They played very well in that second half by securing dominant field positions with the wind at their back and putting our scrum under a lot of pressure. We are not out of it yet but we need to learn the lessons from today and stay focused for next week.”
Exeter: Lachlan Turner; Ian Whitten, Henry Slade, Sam Hill, Olly Woodburn; Gareth Steenson (capt), Nic White; Ben Moon, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Harry Williams, Mitch Lees, Jonny Hill, Dave Ewers, Don Armand, Sam Simmonds
Replacements: Jack Yeandle, Alec Hepburn, Tom Francis, Toby Salmon, Matt Kvesic, Will Chudley, Joe Simmonds, Phil Dollman
Montpellier: Henry Immelman; Gabriel N’gandebe, Frans Steyn, Jan Serfontein, Nemani Nadolo; Aaron Cruden, Gela Aprasidze; Mikheil Nariashvili, Bismarck Du Plessis, Johannes Jonker, Nicholaas Van Rensburg, Konstantine Mikautadze, Julien Bardy, Yacouba Camara, Louis Picamoles (capt)
Replacements: Romain Ruffenach, Grégory Fichten, Mohamed Haouas, Julien Delannoy, Kelian Galletier, Jesse Mogg, Joe Tomane, Benjamin Fall
Referee: Nigel Owens