Exeter Chiefs got their Champions Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 31-12 bonus point victory over La Rochelle at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre.


Tries from Dave Dennis, Tom O’Flaherty, Henry Slade and Sam Simmonds – with Joe Simmonds kicking 11 points – secured the points. The hosts scored two tries courtesy of Geoffrey Doumayrou and Kini Murimurivalu, with Brock James kicking two points.

Exeter made an impressive start with tight-head prop Harry Williams bursting through a hole before offloading to O’Flaherty. The winger was brought down just short of the line but the visitors had momentum on their side, with former Australian international Dennis powering over from short range.

Simmonds added the extras but Exeter were soon caught napping as La Rochelle scrum-half Alexi Bales took a quickly taken penalty before putting right-wing Vincent Rattez over for what looked like a try. But referee Mike Adamson referred the try to the Television Match Official with the try eventually disallowed for a forward pass.

The home side now had the bit between their teeth as they applied severe pressure on the Exeter try line, with their powerful ball carriers trying to force their way over the whitewash. Exeter were forced to concede numerous penalties but La Rochelle opted to turn down three shots at goal.

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And they were made to pay for their wastefulness as Exeter scored their second try on 33 minutes as a long pass from Ian Whitten put O’Flaherty over at the far right-hand corner with an outstanding finish. Joe Simmond’s added the conversion from the touchline.

La Rochelle turned down a further two penalties as they tried desperately to cut the deficit but some strong Exeter defence kept the French side at bay to leave the Chiefs leading 14-0 at half-time.

The hosts claimed their first try early in the second-half with a well-executed cross kick from West brilliantly taken by Rattez, who offloaded to Doumayrou to score. West failed with the conversion but La Rochelle were now well on top as Exeter’s defence was stretched to the absolute limit.


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With the hosts on the front foot, Jeremy Sinzelle’s pass was intercepted by Slade, who ran in unopposed from 45 metres out. Joe Simmonds, who has not missed a shot at goal this season, converted and Exeter led 21-5 going into the final quarter of the game.

Exeter were now in complete control and sealed the bonus point with powerful number eight Sam Simmonds brushing aside three defenders to touch down from short range. There was to be no let up for the hosts as Joe Simmonds knocked over a straightforward penalty from in front of the posts. La Rochelle had the last say when Murimurivalu gathered a cross kick to score.

– Press Association 

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