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Something will have to give as Exeter Chiefs welcome Vodacom Bulls in the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday.
Both sides opened their campaigns last week with bonus-point victories, Vodacom Bulls beating Lyon 42-36 at home, and Exeter running out 27-12 winners on the road at Castres Olympique.
It is Heineken Champions Cup debutants Vodacom Bulls’ first match against Gallagher Premiership opposition in the competition, and the 2020 champions will offer a serious test at Sandy Park.
The Pool A match kicks off at 13:00 (UK & Irish time), and can be watched on ITV, BT Sport, SuperSport, beIN SPORTS and FloRugby.
Comeback o'clock ⏰ @JohnnySexton returns to the bench for @leinsterrugby, while @JakePolledri is back for @gloucesterrugby 😍 @madoshtambwe returns for @UBBrugby and @AmLukhanyo is back on @SharksRugby's bench 🔥#HeinekenChampionsCup team news ➡️ https://t.co/TAY8skUcGV pic.twitter.com/q3acalHdq6
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 15, 2022
Exeter Chiefs prop Ben Moon: “If they’re anything like the South Africans we’ve got, then [they’ll bring] a lot of physicality. They tell us a lot of stories from back home. I’m sure they’ll live up to that.”
Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White: “I’ve worked the plan out, and we are going to stick to it. I think these boys who have just beaten Lyon are obviously chomping at the bit to go on tour and play against Exeter.”
- Exeter made more clear-outs at the ruck than any other team in Round 1 – although their ball retention at attacking rucks was 92 per cent, lower than everyone else apart from Ulster Rugby.
- They were dangerous on the attack in Round 1, either scoring a try or winning a penalty every time they entered the Castres 22 – the best rate of any team last week.
- The Chiefs are now on a three-match winning streak in all competitions.
- The Bulls scored two tries from scrums last week, a joint round-high, level with Sale Sharks.
- They have won all of their five most recent matches.
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Luke Cowan-Dickie scored a hat-trick of tries as Exeter Chiefs marched to a 44-14 win over Vodacom Bulls in the Heineken Champions Cup at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The 2020 champions made it maximum points from their opening two games in this season’s competition as Dave Ewers, Henry Slade, and Solomone Kata also crossed, Joe Simmonds kicking 14 points.
Vodacom Bulls were largely overpowered but managed to demonstrate their attacking quality through scores from Stravino Jacobs and Chris Smith.
Exeter took an early lead through a penalty from fly-half Simmonds, but Bulls responded through wing Jacobs, who was allowed to cruise in unchallenged from 20 metres in a concerning moment for the hosts.
But they would wrestle control from that moment on, flanker Ewers burrowing over on 10 minutes as Vodacom Bulls’ ill-discipline began to cost them.
Two well-constructed lineout mauls put hooker Cowan-Dickie over twice in 15 minutes, and Exeter’s power was evident again just before the break as centre Slade dotted down following a series of dominant carries from the forwards.
With that score wrapping up the bonus point, Simmonds extended the lead to 25 points heading into the break as he slotted his second penalty of the half.
👊 Punching a hole 👊
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 17, 2022
And Cowan-Dickie powered over for his hat-trick shortly after the restart, with his close-range finish stemming from Exeter’s dominant scrum forcing another penalty.
Vodacom Bulls looked dangerous on the rare occasions they secured clean ball, and fly-half Morné Steyn created their second try on 54 minutes as his chip over the top bounced kindly for centre Smith to gather and cross.
But Exeter responded instantly, utilising an overlap in simple yet efficient fashion to send replacement centre Kata over in the corner.
There were no further scores as the game fizzled out over the final 20 minutes, a yellow card for Ewers late on taking some gloss off his superb performance.
Vodacom Bulls and Exeter face off again in Round 3, with the Gallagher Premiership side travelling to Pretoria on January 14.