Exeter fightback in vain against impressive Clermont Auvergne
Clermont Auvergne will be the top seeds in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals after romping to a 48-26 victory over Exeter Chiefs.
Five first-half tries sealed the bonus point and a return to Stade Marcel Michelin in the last eight, before Rob Baxter's men fought-back to claim a try-scoring bonus.
Benjamin Kayser and Noa Nakaitaci set the tone with scores in the first 10 minutes, before Wesley Fofana, Nick Abendanon and a penalty try earned a 34-0 lead at the break.
James Short pulled a try back before Peceli Yato and Alexandre Lapandry crossed, but scores from Ollie Devoto, Ollie Woodburn and Michele Campagnaro underlined Exeter's never-say-die attitude.
Clermont knew a bonus-point victory would guarantee top seeding for the quarter-finals, and they got off to the perfect start.
Morgan Parra found the corner with a kick from the base of a ruck to put the pressure on the Chiefs.
Jack Yeandle overthrew the lineout into the grateful hands of Kayser, who crashed over to score on his 80th appearance in Europe's premier competition.
Parra converted to make it 7-0 after four minutes, and they did not have to wait long for a second score.
Yato put Clermont on the front foot before the ball was worked wide to Remi Lamerat. The centre delivered a perfectly weighted pass to Nakaitaci, who sprinted down the right wing to score.
Parra added a penalty to make it 15-0 before Woodburn gifted Clermont a third try after 23 minutes.
The Exeter wing chased Abendanon back before slapping a pass meant for Fofana into touch to deny a try.
But referee Andrew Brace awarded a penalty try that was converted by Parra after consulting with the TMO, and sent Woodburn away for 10 minutes in the sin bin.
Devoto followed shortly after for a high shot on Abendanon, and Fofana exploited the fractured defence to score the bonus-point try after half an hour.
Abendanon then crashed over for his fifth Champions Cup try in as many matches to put the hosts 34-0 ahead at half-time.
Devoto broke clean through in the first minute of the second half before Jack Maunder sent Short over for a converted try to get Exeter off the mark.
But Yato peeled off a lineout moments later and charged through a gap to restore the 34-point lead, and Lapandry went over on the 50-minute mark to put Clermont 48-7 ahead.
Exeter then staged a comeback to earn a try-scoring bonus point of their own. First Devoto strolled over after an offload from Woodburn, before provider turned scorer for the second.
Campagnaro then sprinted down the right wing to grab a try-scoring bonus-point, but it was too little, too late.