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Bonus-point win hands Exeter a home play-off spot

CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Exeter Chiefs earned a home tie in the Champions Cup Round of 16 after an emphatic 40-3 mauling of Castres Olympique at Sandy Park on Saturday.

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Chiefs finish second in Pool A thanks to tries from Henry Slade, Sam Simmonds, Jack Nowell and Chris Tshiunza, with the hosts also awarded a pair of penalty tries.

Castres, who exit EPCR competitions for the season with the defeat, had Feibyan Tukino sent off at the end of the first half for a shoulder to the head – with the visitors awarded three further yellow cards in the contest.

Castres started the game on the front foot and scored the first points of the contest through a Ben Botica penalty. Exeter struggled to get a foothold amid a number of handling errors.

But they took the lead on 25 minutes through a wonderfully crafted move. Jack Innard’s line-breaking run got momentum into the Exeter attack before he offloaded to Slade, who crossed the whitewash in the corner.

The visitors were soon in card trouble as Baptiste Delaporte was sent to the sin bin after a series of infringements in the red zone. The big blow came a moment later, however, as Tukino led with his shoulder into the head of an Exeter player and earned himself an early bath just before the interval.

Further, ill-discipline would follow as Mathieu Babillot brought down an Exeter maul that was careering toward the try-line; a penalty try and a yellow card for the back-row forward followed – the French outfit down to 12 men for part of the contest.

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With 52 minutes on the clock, Exeter added their third try. A lineout maul rumbled through the dejected Castres pack and over, Sam Simmonds taking the plaudits for his 21st try in 27 EPCR appearances.

Castres held their own with 14 men until the final eight minutes when Exeter turned the screw with a trio of tries. Another maul off the back of a lineout brought the Chiefs’ second penalty score of the contest – Aurélien Azar was sent to the sin bin for bringing down a maul illegally.

Down to 13 men once more, Castres were unable to stop a relentless Exeter. A dominant scrum put the French side on the back foot before Henry Skinner floated a cross-field kick into the path of Nowell, who touched down for Exeter’s fifth with three minutes remaining.

There was further punishment for Castres as Exeter moved the ball quickly through the hands to Tshiunza, who punctuated their victory in the final play.

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The scorers:

For Exeter Cheifs
Tries: Slade, Penalty try 2, S Simmonds, Nowell, Tshiunza.
Cons: Slade 2, J Simmonds

For Castres:
Pen: Botica

Yellow cards: Aurélien Azar (Castres, 73), Mathieu  Babillot (Castes, 36), Baptiste Delaporte (Castres, 33)

Red card: Feibyan-Cornell Tukino ( Castres, 36)

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Josh Hodge, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade (captain), 12 Rory O’Loughlin, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Sam Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Christ Tshiunza, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Dafydd Jenkins, 4 Jannes Kirsten, 3 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 2 Jack Innard, 1 James Kenny
Replacements: 16 Dan Frost, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Jack Dunne, 20 Greg Fisilau, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Solomone Kata

Castres: 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Antoine Bouzerand, 13 Adrien Seguret, 12 Adrea Cocagi, 11 Thomas Larregain, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Feibyan-Cornell Tukino, 7 Baptiste Delaporte, 6 Mathieu Babillot (captain), 5 Florent Vanverberghe, 4 Gauthier Maravat, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Gaetan Barlot, 1 Antoine Tichit
Replacements: 16 Brice Humbert, 17 Matthew Tierney, 18 Aurélien Azar, 19 Kevin Kornath, 20 Ryno Pieterse, 21 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 22 Julien Blanc, 23 Théo Chabouni

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Peter Martin (Ireland), Oisin Quinn (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)

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