Exeter Chiefs 35-10 Sale Sharks: Chiefs claim bonus-point win to close on Champions Cup quarter-finals
|Heineken Champions Cup Pool 2|
|Exeter (7) 35|
|Tries: S Simmonds 2, J Simmonds, Moon, Nowell Cons: J Simmonds 3, Steenson 2|
|Sale (3) 10|
|Try: S James Con: MacGinty Pen: MacGinty|
Exeter moved to within touching distance of the Champions Cup quarter-finals with a convincing bonus-point victory against Sale.
Sharks led initially through an AJ MacGinty penalty, but Sam Simmonds' try put the hosts up at half-time.
Simmonds' brother Joe joined his sibling on the scoresheet before Sam crossed for a second time.
Sale's Sam James scored, but Exeter's Ben Moon claimed the bonus-point fourth try and Jack Nowell added a fifth.
Play was briefly stopped in the second half as heavy hail fell at Sandy Park, but once the weather cleared Exeter completed their fourth European victory this season and are unbeaten at the top of Pool 2 on 19 points.
Sale, third in the pool on six points, still have a chance of reaching the knockout stages after Glasgow lost 12-7 to La Rochelle on Saturday, leaving them second in the pool on nine points with the French side fourth on five points.
The five pool leaders qualify for the quarter-finals, with the three best-placed runners-up also going through.
Simmonds family boost Exeter's Champions Cup hopes
Exeter have struggled in Europe in previous seasons but the Chiefs are enjoying their best start to a Champions Cup as they seek to reach the quarter-finals for just the second time in their history.
But it was Sale who came closest to scoring a try in an uneventful first 20 minutes, though the Sharks had to settle instead for a MacGinty penalty after a high tackle.
Shortly after, Exeter's forwards repeatedly bombarded the Sharks' defensive line and Sam Simmonds was the man who managed to scramble over to score.
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond had made wholesale changes to the side that lost 22-20 to Exeter last weekend and he was forced into more as flanker Ben Curry went off for a head injury assessment, which he failed.
The pressure on Sale increased as prop Curtis Langdon was sent to the sin-bin for repeated infringements in his 22 and Exeter capitalised on the man advantage to send Simmonds' brother Joe over.
Then, the Chiefs drove a maul towards the tryline and Sam Simmonds piled over to score his second try of the afternoon before the heavens opened at Sandy Park.
As heavy hail began to fall, Sale centre James found a way through the Exeter defence to dot down before referee Pierre Brousset sent all the players inside until conditions improved.
Play resumed after a brief pause and Exeter stepped up the intensity as Moon barrelled over from close range for Exeter's fourth try on his 250th appearance for the club before Nowell followed suit two minutes later.
Exeter travel to Glasgow for the penultimate round of the pool stage on 11 January, while Sale play at La Rochelle a day earlier.
|Heineken Champions Cup Pool 2|
'We grew as the game went on' - what they said
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Radio 5 Live Sport: "We're very pleased. We weren't our fluid best in the first half but we grew as the game went on.
"Sam Simmonds is a huge momentum ball carrier for us. He's making a difference to us this year and we've got to make sure that we maintain this momentum."
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond said: "Our spirit is not broken. We got beaten by the better team on the day. No team in the country could have stopped them from five metres out."
Exeter Chiefs: Hogg; Nowell, Slade, S Hill, Whitten; J Simmonds, White; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Dennis (c), J Hill, Ewers, Vermeulen, S Simmonds.
Replacements: Taione, Moon, Street, Kirsten, Armand, Maunder, Steenson, Woodburn.
Sale Sharks: Redpath; Solomona, S James, L James, McGuigan; MacGinty, Cliff; Harrison, Langdon, Cooper-Woolley, Postlethwaite, Phillips, T Curry, B Curry, Ross (c).
Replacements: Van der Merwe, Morozov, John, Evans, Neild, Warr, Curtis, Yarde.
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