Exeter end SA involvement in Champions Cup with rout of Stormers
Exeter emphatically ended South African interest in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup as they booked a semi-final place by beating the Stormers 42-17 at Sandy Park.
The Chiefs, Champions Cup winners in 2020, will face La Rochelle or Saracens in the last four later this month after a six-try success.
If reigning European champions La Rochelle beat Saracens on Sunday, the semi-final will be in Bordeaux, but a Saracens triumph would send a mouth-watering all-English showdown to Bristol City’s Ashton Gate.
Just a week on from a stamina-sapping victory over Montpellier that was decided on try count after extra-time, Exeter delivered an immense performance that saw them dominate every key area.
The Stormers encountered difficulties travelling from Cape Town to Devon, and they were never in contention as Exeter posted tries during the first 30 minutes from full-back Tom Wyatt, captain Jack Nowell and his fellow wing Olly Woodburn, all converted by Joe Simmonds.
And when number eight Sam Simmonds scored just five minutes into the second half, again converted by the fly-half, it effectively ended the contest, before Jack Yeandle and Tom Cairns crossed for late tries that Joe Simmonds improved.
The Stormers were more accomplished after the break, claiming tries from full-back Damian Willemse, wing Suleiman Hartzenberg and lock Marvin Orie, plus one Manie Libbok conversion, but the damage had long been done as the Chiefs marched on.
Exeter showed one change following a thrilling quarter-final victory over French champions Montpellier, with Woodburn returning to the starting line-up, while Scotland star Stuart Hogg featured among the replacements after recovering from an ankle injury.
Exeter dominated early territory and established impressive momentum that was briefly stalled by an injury to Nowell, who twice required treatment after taking a blow to his right leg.
The Chiefs went ahead through a sparkling 13th-minute score sparked by Woodburn’s break. He was held up short but Joe Simmonds delivered a pinpoint kick that was caught by Wyatt, who claimed a second try in successive Champions Cup appearances.
Simmonds converted, and with a gusting wind at their backs Exeter knew they had to make that advantage count.
And they struck again early in the second quarter after outstanding phase play by the forwards set an imposing platform that Nowell prospered from as he weaved his way for Chiefs’ second try, again converted by Joe Simmonds.
It was vintage rugby by Exeter, and they conjured try number three 11 minutes before half-time.
A long lineout throw found centre Sean O’Brien in space and his clever inside pass fed Woodburn, who shredded Stormers’ defence to claim an outstanding try that Simmonds converted for a 21-0 interval lead.
Stormers briefly tested Exeter’s defence after the restart but normal service was quickly resumed when Sam Simmonds smashed through from 20 metres out, with his brother’s conversion leaving the visitors in all kinds of trouble.
The South African side belatedly stirred through Willemse’s fine finish after 53 minutes, yet Exeter still retained control of the contest and just needed to retain composure.
Stormers thought they had made further inroads on the hour mark when centre Ruhan Nel breached Exeter’s defence, but the score was ruled out following obstruction by skipper Steven Kitshoff.
Hartzenberg then broke clear to take Stormers into double figures, but they still trailed by 18 points as Chiefs boss Rob Baxter emptied his replacements’ bench.
And Exeter deservedly had the last word through Yeandle’s effort following a relentlessly-driven lineout and then Cairns’ touchdown.
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