With a host of senior players on international duty or given a recovery week ahead of a return the Guinness PRO12 action, the Blues travelled to Devon with a line-up averaging the age of 20 years old and were given a tough lesson.
Richard Hodges’ side made a promising start with James Sheekey scoring an early try, but Exeter’s experience proved decisive at Sandy Park, as they replied with 31 unanswered first half points, with internationals such as Michele Campagnaro and Tom Johnson starring.
Cardiff Blues battled back with three tries in the second half thanks to James Beal and a Rhun Williams brace, but Exeter remained in the ascendant throughtout, stretching their tally to ten tries.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring, through the boot of outside half Jarrod Evans, following good defensive pressure by centre Harri Millard to win a penalty.
Wales’ Capital Region soon extended their lead, after a neat Kirby Myhill pass released Sheekey down the middle to run in unopposed. Evans added the extras to give the young Cardiff Blues side an early 0-10 lead.
The high-tempo start to the game was maintained as Chiefs bounced back with a try of their own, with Shaun Malton powering over from short range. Joe Simmonds’ conversion narrowed the Blues’ lead to three points.
They were then dealt an early blow as Evans was forced off, with 18 year old fly half Ben Jones coming on for his first Cardiff Blues appearance.
A powerful driving line-out by the Chiefs pack saw the home side claim their second try of the game soon after. Referee Luke Pearce awarded a penalty try after Myhill took down the rampant maul and was shown a yellow card for his indiscretion. Simmonds’ successful conversion made it 14-10.
The home side were playing with confidence, and a low kick behind the defence by full-back Phil Dollman put pressure on the covering James Beal.
The wing’s attempt to clear his lines was charged down, and the ball found its way into the hands of Italian international Campagnaro, who had the simple task of dotting down. Simmonds maintained his 100 per cent record for the day.
The home side secured the bonus point before the half hour mark. A chip behind the Cardiff Blues defence found the towering Damian Welch who touched down, but Simmonds’ conversion drifted wide.
Chiefs had time for a fifth try before the end of the half. The ball was shipped wide to flanker Sam Simmonds, who slid over in the corner and took the score to 31-10 at half time.
Four minutes into the second half, the home side struck again. An offload by Campagnaro unlocked the Cardiff Blues defence once again, releasing Tom Hendrickson to cross the whitewash.
A Seb Davies interception gave the Blues a platform for a rare attack. He was brought down inside the opposing 22m, but the ball was spread out to Millard who chipped into the Exeter try zone. James Beal found himself on the end of the kick to touch down for his side’s second try of the game.
Replacement Stuart Townsend was on the end of a Max Bodilly offload to claim his side’s seventh of the game.
The visitors crossed over for their third try of the afternoon. A rebound from a Chiefs knock on found Dane Blacker in space. A last ditch tackle stopped him in his tracks, but Rhun Williams was on hand for the offload to slide over.
An error by the Chiefs backline allowed the young Cardiff Blues side to claim a bonus point, as full-back Williams pounced on the mistake to score his second try in quick succession.
But despite the surge of momentum for Hodges’ side, Exeter did find an eighth try. The ball was spread wide to Tom Johnson, and the England international number 8 made no mistakes as he crossed over in the corner, taking his side’s tally to half a century of points.
Jack Innard was on the end of another powerful driving maul to score Cheifs’ ninth try, before their tally was extended to ten tries with Tom Lawday sliding over out wide.