Exeter Chiefs prove too strong for French visitors
Exeter Chiefs kick-started their European Champions Cup campaign with a try-scoring bonus point victory over French Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles.
The main damage in the 34-19 win was inflicted by tries from wing Olly Woodburn, who crossed twice, prop Moray Low and outside centre Ian Whitten.
Chiefs fly-half Henry Slade, who will be keen to show his quality to new England coach Eddie Jones, landed four penalties and a conversion.
The Devon side dominated the opening 40 minutes, establishing a 21-7 lead. Visitors Bordeaux-Begles spent little time in the opposition half, but when they were there they scored in the corner through full-back Nans Ducuing, with the try converted by fly-half Lionel Beauxis.
Further tries for the French side arrived after the break from inside centre Julien Rey and scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues, along with a Romain Lonca conversion, but they fell short.
Exeter went down to a 25-13 defeat by Ospreys in their opening Pool Two match at Swansea's Liberty Stadium while Bordeaux-Begles saw their cup opener against Clermont-Auvergne postponed following the terrorist attacks in Paris.
In memory of those who lost their lives in the French capital, and for Jonah Lomu, the 9,577 Sandy Park crowd observed a one-minute silence with both sets of players wearing special Tricolore armbands that were brought to Devon by the French squad.
The Chiefs pinned the visitors back into the own half in the opening minutes with Slade landing a penalty from in front of the posts having turned down a similar opportunity a few minutes earlier.
From the restart the Chiefs mounted another attack. Jack Nowell began the move before offloading to Tom Johnson who fed Woodburn to sprint down the touchline to score. Slade's conversion hit the upright.
The visitors made the most of their first serious foray into the Exeter half, displaying good handling and stretching the defence to allow Ducuing to score and half-back Beauxis to strike the conversion perfectly.
The non-stop pace of the game continued and when Bordeaux-Begles had a lineout close to their own line they lost the ball in the maul when Scotland international Low ripped the ball away to cross for Exeter's second try.
Slade added the conversion and then landed his second penalty to give the Chiefs an 18-7 lead midway through the first half. Beauxis' casual kicking style then brought no reward when a penalty attempt sailed past the far upright.
Five minutes before the break Exeter looked to have crossed the whitewash again but referee Leighton Hodges, after consulting TMO Gareth Simmonds, ruled no score although the home side were awarded a penalty.
They opted for a scrum, where they won a free kick and another scrum. Then Slade was stopped a metre short of the line. Another penalty and another scrum followed, and the visitors cleared their line only to be penalised 30 metres out and Slade made it 21-7 at the break.
Two minutes after the restart Exeter increased their score with Ireland international Whitten powering over the line. Ducuing looked set to score his second try but he was bundled into touch by full-back Phil Dollman and Woodburn.
But minutes later the Exeter defence was exposed with Spanish international Rey crossing the whitewash. The score instilled a new belief in the French side but that exposed their own defence with Woodburn scoring the bonus-point try.
Both sides utilised their replacements and the visitors reduced the arrears when Lesgourgues strolled through under the posts with replacement fly-half Lonca adding the extras.
Exeter, who seemed to have lost some of their spark, stretched their lead with Slade's fourth penalty. With five minutes remaining the visitors were searching for their bonus-point try but a penalty to the corner was too long.