Montpellier 24-27 Exeter: Chiefs earn Champions Cup win
Rob Baxter had one request after the final whistle: a beer. It was the perfect chance to toast one of Exeter’s greatest victories — and raise a glass to Don Armand, the man of the match.
Having conquered England, Exeter now have Europe in their sights. The Chiefs ended Montpellier’s 14-month unbeaten home run and announced themselves as Champions Cup contenders.
Flanker Armand scored twice — just four days before Eddie Jones names his England squad — and showed that Exeter’s rise from the lower leagues is not over yet.
Gareth Steenson kicked three conversions and two penalties, the latter secured Exeter’s win
Lachlan Turner celebrates after Exeter secured a famous win over Montpellier away from home
The Premiership side give their hosts a guard of honour after beating the French side 27-24
MATCH FACTS AND POOL 3 TABLE
Montpellier: Mogg, Fall, Tomane, Steyn, Nadolo, Paillaugue, Pienaar, Nariashvili, Ruffenach, Guillamon, Du Plessis, Van Rensburg, Galletier, Camara, Picamoles.
Replacements: Geli, Fichten, Kubriashvili, Delannoy, Liebenberg, Sanga, Nagusa, Michel.
Tries: Paillaugue, Nadolo (x2), Tomane
Yellow cards: Mogge
Conversions: Paillaugue (x2)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Exeter: Dollman, Turner, Slade, Whitten, Woodburn, Steenson, White, Moon, Yeandle, Francis, Lees, J. Hill, Armand, Salvi, Waldrom.
Replacements: Taione, Hepburn, Williams, Atkins (unused), S. Simmonds, Chudley, Hendrickson (unused), Short.
Tries: Whitten, Armond (x2)
Penalties: Steenson (x2)
Conversions: Steenson (x3)
Baxter said: ‘Don’s good, isn’t he? He was a big man for us. He would be fine in an international environment.’
Montpellier have relied on power over pace in recent seasons, so the Chiefs set out to run the hosts into the ground. They kept the ball alive and tired the French from the start as Henry Slade weaved together the strong carries of Armand, Thomas Waldrom and Mitch Lees.
The hosts drifted in and out after star man Ruan Pienaar left after 20 minutes with a head injury.
The scrum-half’s only significant contribution was the grubber kick to set up the opening score for Joe Tomane. When Pienaar went off, Montpellier had made 40 tackles to Chiefs’ seven.
Nemani Nadolo scored two tries for Montpellier but it was not enough to prevent defeat
Armand drove over from short range for his first and, moments later, Slade broke from his own half. As Ollie Woodburn threw the final pass to Lees, Australian full back Jesse Mogg knocked the ball down. The outcome? A yellow card and three more points.
Nemani Nadolo — the heaviest and most powerful wing in the world — sucked in defenders to create the space for Benoit Paillaugue’s try, before crashing over to make it 17-10 at half-time after Exeter were sloppily turned over from their own lineout.
‘I told the players in the changing room to keep believing,’ said Baxter. ‘It’s not mistakes that really hurt you, it’s how you react to mistakes. We’re starting to realise that if we stick at it for 80 minutes, we’re pretty tough to beat.’
Don Armand scored a try in each half as Rob Baxter’s Chiefs earned a famous away victory
That is exactly what they did, and Ian Whitten danced through the defence to score three minutes into the second half.
As Cotter has realised, it takes more than four months to put together a team.
‘I remember playing Exeter with Clermont in 2013,’ said Cotter. ‘They’d just come up through the divisions and we won 46-3. Look at how they’ve constructed. It takes time. They know their game. We’re using these games to construct a team and construct a culture.’
Nadolo scored a second but Armand led the Chiefs resistance and, after a TMO referral from John Lacey, he drove over to level the scores at 24-24.
With eight minutes remaining, Gareth Steenson kicked the winning points.