Exeter dent Castres' Play-off hopes
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Premiership front-runners Exeter Chiefs kept their Champions Cup hopes alive after a 34-12 bonus point win over Castres Olympique at Sandy Park on Sunday.
A superb finish from the returning Jack Nowell gave Exeter the lead inside three minutes. With penalty advantage, Nowell weaved past three Castres defenders and flew clear of the last man for the opening try of the game.
Castres launched an instant response, spreading wide and forcing the overlap, finding Taylor Paris who was able to saunter over the try line.
Exeter dominated territory and possession throughout and made it count minutes later as they found Ollie Devoto who played a terrific pass under pressure to Joe Simmonds, allowing the flyhalf to cross the try line with ease.
Lock Jonny Hill then scored the third Exeter try of the afternoon after Nowell got the move underway with another swashbuckling run, riding tackles and reaching the Castres 22. After a number of phases, Hill was able to power his way over the try line at the posts.
Exeter continued their dominance in the second period, with Henry Slade taking the ball 30 metres before kicking behind the Castres line. The ball took a lovely bounce for Tom O’Flaherty who caught the ball on the run and dived over for his first Heineken Champions Cup try.
Thomas Combezou grabbed the second try for the visitors but it was nothing more than a consolation as Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie added further scores for the home side. Castres replacement Tudor Stroe was also sent off in the latter stages for foul play.
That win for the home side means a win against Munster in Thomond Park could be enough to send them into the quarter-finals, while Castres will host Gloucester Rugby.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Nowell, Simmonds, Hill, O’Flaherty, Slade, Cowan-Dickie
Cons: Simmonds 2
Tries: Paris, Combezou
Red card: Tudor Stroe (Castres, 59 – Dangerous tackle)
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Jack Nowell, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Ian Whitten.
Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 David Smith, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Robert Ebersohn (captain), 11 Taylor Paris, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Baptiste Delaporte, 6 Camille Gerondeau, 5 Loic Jacquet, 4 Thibault Lassalle, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Antoine Tichit.
Replacements: 16 Kevin Firmin, 17 Tudor Stroe, 18 Marc Clerc, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Alex Tulou, 21 Anthony Jelonch, 22 Florian Vialelle, 23 Rory Kockott.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Mark Patton (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 13, 2019