MATCH REPORT: Exeter Chiefs 44 Cardiff Blues 29
Exeter Chiefs made a superb start to their Heineken Cup campaign with a well-deserved 44-29 victory over Cardiff Blues at Sandy Park.
Tries by Tom Johnson, Dean Mumm, Matt Jess and Fetu’u Vainikolo gave Chiefs the four-try bonus point within the first 30 minutes before additional scores by Ben White and Ian Whitten completed an excellent Pool Two win.
The Devon club made a positive start, forcing Cardiff back into their own 22 at regular intervals in the opening ten minutes.
Their early dominance yielded a first try when flanker Johnson crashed over after numerous phases of home possession pushed the Blues back onto their own try line.
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Gareth Steenson hit the right post with his conversion attempt and Chiefs’ five-point lead was cut to three within two minutes when British and Irish Lions goal-kicker Leigh Halfpenny comfortably kicked a long-range penalty through the posts for the Blues.
Chiefs continued in positive fashion, drawing a penalty of their own from another of Cardiff’s Lions men, Sam Warburton, which Steenson kicked well to re-establish the home side’s lead.
They were in the mood to take any chances coming their way and scored four more tries before half time.
A botched line-out from Cardiff started another period of pressure and captain Mumm capitalised for a touchdown. A moment of brilliant from Jess and then some opportunistic play from Vainikolo ensured the bonus point was already secured.
There was still time in the opening 40 minutes for White to score against his old club, with Steenson adding the extras to four out of five of his side’s first-half tries.
The Blues came out for the second half with renewed impetus but Chiefs defended their line well. And there was no mercy shown from the hosts as they chased more tries early on in the second half.
Centre Whitten soon pushed Chiefs’ advantage to 38 points but Steenson hit the right post once more with his conversion attempt.
Cardiff scrum-half Lloyd Williams scored Blues’ first try in the 55th minute, but at that point, it was looking like a mere consolation score. Halfpenny added the extras to Williams’ effort as well as another soon after by Robin Copeland.
The situation became a little more challenging for Chiefs when Whitten and replacement Sireli Naqelevuki were shown yellow cards either side of the hour mark.
The extra men were making the difference and once wing Alex Cuthbert scored a third try for the Blues, they were suddenly looking good for a four-try bonus point of their own.
That moment came with 71 minutes on the clock when Harry Robinson ran clear into the left corner.
Once back to their full XV, Chiefs were able to limit any further damage. Henry Slade came on for Steenson and scored with a well-taken penalty and Chiefs were able to close out a fine result to start their second season in Europe’s elite club competition.