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Chris Bentley: Clermont defeat is a fantastic lesson for improving Chiefs

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 17, 2013

Chris Bentley (2)

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WELL, the Clermont game has come and gone and the final result really isn't pleasant viewing.

After not really weathering the early storm we managed to get a toehold in the game and, I would contest, had the better of the exchanges through the middle 40.

Unfortunately our international-laden opponents then laid siege to our try line and really showed their credentials as they blew the score out to near embarrassing proportions.

Anyone who caught the game will know that there is no shame for the Chiefs on the back of this result.

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Clermont have been building this team for a few years now and will definitely be there or thereabouts when the Heineken Cup is contested at the end of the season. This was a team at the absolute peak of its powers full with internationals and playing rugby of the highest order.

The Chiefs on the other hand are still growing and we all must recall Rob's sentiments when we made it into the Premiership.

I can't remember verbatim but the gist was 'now comes the struggle'. Anyone that was present in the Championship when we went down to Harlequins 70-5 or 68-15 at Bristol would have thought, that after making it to the top tier, dark days like the ones suffered at the Stoop and the Memorial Stadium would be a thing of the past.

However it's from such results that the team learns and improves.

The finest steel is tempered many times and I believe that the result on Saturday in front of 17,000 fans at the fortress Marcel Michelen was a fantastic lesson for us to learn in the embryonic stage of our Heineken Cup existence.

It took five years for the team to right the wrongs of the Championship era; I doubt it will take as long with the Heineken squad!

While we're discussing the Clermont fixture spare a thought for my player to watch of a few weeks ago Jack Yeandle. This time last season Crediton-born Jack, was running out in the Championship against Esher. In front of less than 1,000 spectators he was obviously having a barnstorming game in the front row hence why he earned a Chiefs contract.

However, not in his wildest dreams would he have foreseen how his Heineken Cup debut would take place.

Chasing the game Chiefs had run most of their replacements early in the second half when Aly Muldowney went down injured. With no back five replacements I can only imagine the dialogue that must have gone on between Carl Rimmer (19st tight head prop) and Jack (17 ½ stone hooker) when they knew one of them would be going onto the pitch in front of 17,000 fans, against a rampant Clermont team, to play in the back row!!!!

Needless to say, Jack got the nod, entered the fray and did himself no disservice putting in a gutsy performance in what became a rather disjointed Chiefs rearguard action.

However, I wait with baited breath to see the post-match heart-rate scores. I will be fascinated to see if Jack's pulse actually got higher than the moment he realised how his Heineken Cup debut would unravel!

I find factoids, little known nuggets of information, of huge interest.

The knowledge that Ulan Bator is the capital of Mongolia or that the giant squid has the largest eyes in the world have me in raptures.

I should find this embarrassing but am proud of my geeky disposition.

You can only imagine my delight when, responding to a sponsors query, I discovered that Tom Johnson is the first Exeter player in the history of the club to score a try for England!

Indeed this has very little relevance to this week's column but following the result on Saturday it's nice to read some good news too!

While I'm talking about good news the England Under-20s squad has been announced and once again the Exeter Chiefs academy has a disproportionate representation within the 32-man squad. With five of our boys having made the cut, the other 11 premiership clubs average just over half of our quota. This is certainly a great fillip for the academy and for the future of the Chiefs too.

Sustainability is a word we at Chiefs like to bandy around from time to time at the club. So much so that I've actually thought up the sustainability fork as representative to the three key elements for the club's future and continued success.

With the impending stadium expansion for the Chiefs, it should ensure that professional rugby will be sustained financially.

Such a venue will provide a magnificent conferencing facilities that will rival London and Birmingham as a destination while provided a fantastic space for sponsors and corporate clients on a matchday

The academy meanwhile shows that we have a conveyor belt of local talent to ensure the position we currently enjoy will also be sustained for years to come.

However, the third prong to my imagined 'sustainability fork' is you dear reader and never were you needed more than this weekend!

Leinster are coming to town and they are on the warpath.

Needing a bonus point victory to secure a spot in the knockout rounds of the Heineken Cup; Mike Schmidt's men will be turning up all guns blazing.

Our wounded Chiefs will need the tribe in full voice to ensure that we stand strong to the challenge as we look to take the scalp of the top rated team in Europe at this moment.

It's a tall order but one I hope we all as Exeter Chiefs fans will be able to play our part in as we continue to grow.

Until the next time, stay safe and enjoy your rugby.

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