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Clermont and Bordeaux bounce back for France in Champions Cup

Noa Nakaitaci (centre) set up a try for Julien Vardy as Clermont beat Exeter Chiefs 35-8 (AFP Photo/Thierry Zoccolan)

Paris (AFP) - France's top clubs bounced back from Saturday's European Champions Cup debacle as Clermont and Bordeaux-Begles opened their campaigns with victories on Sunday.

Competition runners-up in 2013 and 2015, Clermont gave an impressive display of power in brushing aside Exeter Chiefs 35-8, while Bordeaux scored three late tries to beat Ulster 28-13.

On Saturday, French Top 14 sides had lost four out of four, with Toulon even going down at home to champions Saracens.

Exeter had triumphed 31-14 at home last year when these two sides also met in the group stages -- when Exeter stunned the rugby world by winning the pool after an over-zealous Morgan Parra ran a late penalty in a defeat to Bordeaux in Clermont's final pool match when had he kicked for the sticks instead, they could have taken a losing bonus point that would have left them above Exeter.

A year on, though, and the Top 14 outfit were simply in a different class, running in five tries to one.

Irishman Gareth Steenson kicked Exeter into an early Pool 5 lead but it was one-way traffic from there as Clermont wrapped up the bonus point with 37 minutes to spare.

Clermont went in front after going wide before Noa Nakaitaci passed back inside for Julien Vardy to score on 24mins.

Less than four minutes later, Clermont had carved open the home defence again with Nick Abendanon putting in Nakaitaci on the left.

Former England wing David Strettle almost handed Chiefs a route back into the match after his kick was charged down and the former Saracens three-quarter compounded matters by fumbling the ball over his own line allowing Dave Lewis to touch down.

But the Exeter scrum-half was ruled to have been offside after Irish referee George Clancy asked for TMO assistance.

Just before half-time, Clermont struck again after a show and go from Camille Lopez, who then popped the ball off to Fofana to cross for a third try, all converted by Morgan Parra, to give the visitors a 21-3 lead.

They had the bonus point sewed up three minutes into the second half as Strettle cut in off his wing and passed inside for Fritz Lee to tee up Abendanon to scythe through the porous Exter rearguard.

Exeter sprang back into life and Clermont's South African lock Flip van der Merwe was sin-binned after the French giants repeatedly infringed while holding out the English pack on their tryline.

But the hosts couldn't take advantage and a brilliant miss-pass from replacement scrum-half Ludovic Radosavljevic set up Fofana for an easy score with 11 minutes left.

Exeter had to wait until the last minute for Sam Hill to score their consolation try.

- 'We dominated' -

Earlier in Pool 5, Bordeaux left it late against Ulster with hulking prop Sebastien Taofifenua sparking a three-try finish.

Ireland fly-half Ian Madigan opened the scoring for Bordeaux with a third-minute penalty but Ulster first crossed the whitewash thanks to a simple two-phase set-piece move, Stuart Olding's crashball quickly reworked for skipper Andrew Trimble to sprint through unfettered.

Ulster led 13-9 with seven minutes to play but Taofifenua, weighing in at 130kg (20st), used his immense ballast to squirm past Trimble, Ruan Pienaar and Rory Best and dot down in the corner.

Then came a penalty try after Fijian flyer Metuisela Talebua was taken out after breaking free and gathering his own chip ahead with the line beckoning.

The icing on Bordeaux's cake was provided by Australian winger Blair Connor, who sprinted the length of the field for a memorable try after full-back Jean-Marcellin Buttin sparked an attack from his own tryline.

"We dominated the second-half because we had possession," said Bordeaux forwards coach Jacques Brunel.

"Everything's less tiring when you've got the ball.

"We were less under the cosh and found ourselves on top and that helped us with the job in hand."

The Pool 1 match between last season's beaten finalists Racing 92 and Munster was postponed after the death of the Irish province's head coach Anthony Foley.