Gray hat-trick helps Exeter thrash Montpellier
EURO CUP REPORT: Exeter Chiefs lock Jonny Gray notched a second-half hat-trick as the 2020 Champions Cup winners routed Montpellier 42-6 at Sandy Park.
The Chiefs scored 42 unanswered points – including 35 in the second half – as Stuart Hogg, Sam Simmonds and Don Armond dotted down in addition to Gray’s trio of tries.
Montpellier had led 6-0 after the opening 20 minutes – and trailed by just a single point at the break – but a relentless closing 40 minutes secured the Pool A triumph for the hosts.
The visitors – missing several key names through both injury and international rest – began the game on the front foot and earned a third minute penalty. Teenage flyhalf Louis Foursans called his shot, slotting his first European points through the uprights.
Foursans added a second penalty with 10 minutes on the clock as the visitors pinned Exeter in their own 22 during the opening salvos.
Midway through the first half Exeter kicked into life, a sustained spell of pressure resulted in the opening try of the contest.
After what seemed endless phases of brute force from the forwards, Exeter changed tack and swiftly moved the ball to the right flank. Hogg juked four defenders in one delightful step to open up a free run to the whitewash – the Scotland international dotting down with ease.
Joe Simmonds added the extras to give the hosts a one-point lead at the interval.
Whatever was said at half time riled the Chiefs as they scored within 120 seconds of the re-start – Gray notching his first of the evening with a close-range finish.
Gray added his second ten minutes later, Montpellier unable to resist the Chiefs’ power game – another close-range finish onto the lock’s resumé.
The hat-trick followed on the hour mark, a quickly taken Luke Cowan-Dickie penalty allowed Gray to power over. The decision was referred to the TMO, with the on-field decision of try upheld.
By now it was all Exeter and 2020 EPCR European Player of the Year Sam Simmonds dotted down the team’s fifth try, set up by the mazy run of Jack Nowell.
The sixth try came in added time, replacement Don Armond completing the rout with another close-range finish.
Exeter travel to Glasgow Warriors in Round Two next Saturday, while Montpellier host four-time European Cup winners Leinster at the GGL Stadium on Friday.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Hogg, Gray 3, S Simmonds, Armand
Cons: J Simmonds 6
Pens: Foursans 2
Exeter: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Sam Skinner, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 James Kenny, 18 Sam Nixon, 19 Don Armand, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Sam Maunder, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Tom Gilbert-Hendrickson.
Montpellier: 15 Julien Tisseron, 14 Josua Vici, 13 Yvan Reilhac, 12 Thomas Darmon, 11 Gabriel N’gandebe, 10 Louis Foursans, 9 Gela Aprasidze, 8 Kelian Galletier (captain), 7 Jeremie Maurouard, 6 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 5 Bastien Chalureau, 4 Mickael Capelli, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Enzo Forletta.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Robert Rodgers, 18 Malik Hamadache, 19 Zach Mercer, 20 Aubin Eymeri, 21 Pierre Lucas, 22 Masivesi Dakuwaqa, 23 Tyler Duguid.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Rhys Jones (Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)