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Rob Baxter: Exeter fate in our own hands

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter believes the Chiefs' European Champions Cup fate is all in their own hands after a brilliant 31-14 bonus-point victory over French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne.

Thomas Waldrom, Don Armand and Mitch Lees went over for tries after the break as the Chiefs scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to climb to the top of Pool 2.

That victory sees Exeter top the pool from Ospreys on points difference ahead of the return fixture with Clermont at Stade Marcel-Michelin next week.

Hosea Gear and Aurelien Rougerie crossed for tries for the visitors and Morgan Parra converted both as Clermont held an early 14-3 lead.

But Waldrom's first try of the afternoon five minutes before the break started the fightback and Clermont had no answer to the Chiefs after the interval.

The last time the sides met in Devon, three years ago, the French side handed out a harsh lesson with a 46-12 mauling and Exeter learned from their mistakes in that defeat.

Baxter said: "That is the tough reality of things but the nice thing is that three years ago we were well beaten by Clermont but now we have won an important Champions Cup match and give ourselves an opportunity to make next Sunday a big occasion.

"This win possibly keeps the pool alive after next week's match because around 17 or 18 points things could still happen for you. We have 10 points now with three games remaining and things are starting to get interesting.

"We are at the top of the pool now and it is up to us to fight for it and keep it. So things are in our hands which is a nice place to be. We are immensely proud to be playing in the Champions Cup against teams like Clermont Auvergne.

"That is what we worked really hard to be in the Premiership for and what we worked hard to get into this European competition for. It's for nights like this one and I think that we have made the most of the occasion.

"Being 14-10 down at half time was a good score for us, thanks to the try just before the break. In the second half I think the wind, the way we played, the way we kept possession and territory just created enough pressure to score tries and win the game.

"The important thing was the physicality at the breakdown - the game was won and lost in that area - if we hadn't managed to up our level at the breakdown, it would have been a very long night.

"I thought we were better in the second half but we still weren't perfect but good enough to weather the penalties. There will always be injuries after a game like this because there were a lot of physical conditions and some physical contest."

Exeter's Jack Nowell, who had switched from wing to outside centre just before the start, wasn't aware that new England coach Eddie Jones was in the Sandy Park crowd to cast his eyes over potential candidates for the Six Nations squad to be announced next month.

Nowell added: "It is very simple for me in terms of England, just to focus on playing well for Exeter because Eddie Jones will be looking at as many games as possible and the only way to get picked is to play well for your club.

"So the big thing for me is to put England selection to the back of my mind and focus on playing well for Exeter. Playing in big European games is crucial to that and to Exeter because we are an ambitious team this year."


From Belfast Telegraph