Sale gave debuts to their big-name signings but it was Exeter’s unsung heroes who showed once again that they will be a force in the Aviva Premiership this season with a record 43-6 win at Sandy Park.
The Sharks arrived with Richie Gray starting and Danny Cipriani on the bench, but it was Exeter’s Samoan winger Josh Tatupu who stole the limelight causing danger every time he got the ball.
Exeter came into the game deprived of injured first choice trio Sireli Naqelevuki, Hoani Tui and Haydn Thomas, as well as Argentine winger Gonzalo Camacho who is at the Rugby Championship with the Pumas, but it made no difference.
Tatupu, along with Matt Jess and Ignacio Mieres, was sensational for Exeter as they comprehensively outplayed the Sharks.
At 6ft 10ins and with his striking blonde hair Gray is a hard man to miss, but Joe Ward did just that with his first three lineouts as the Chiefs edged the set-piece stakes to take the ascendancy early.
It took a quarter of an hour for Exeter to turn their dominance into points as Sale were penalised for drifting offside just inside their own half, and Ignacio Mieres punished them, slotting the penalty from nigh on 50 metres.
That appeared to galvanise Exeter and soon after Mieres increased his tally as he finished off a move started by Tatupu.
The powerful winger made a searing break before finding James Scaysbrook who carried the ball up and from the next ruck Mieres showed his strength to crash over for the first try of the match.
Mieres’ conversion hit the upright and bounced away but three minutes later he found his range as the Sale scrum was penalised to take Exeter into an 11-0 lead.
While Exeter were dominating the lineout, the scrum was far less predictable and five minutes later it was Sale who won a penalty and Nick Macleod got them off the mark.
With ten minutes remaining in the first half the travelling Sale support got their first sight of Cipriani in the league as the international fly-half replaced the injured Sam Tuitupou, with Macleod switching into the centres.
It made no difference for the Sharks though as Exeter continued to dominate and after both Chris Whitehead and Jason Shoemark had blown golden opportunities to score, a second scrum penalty allowed Mieres to make it 14-3 at the break.
The Sharks needed an early reply but it was Exeter who flew out of the blocks in the second half, grabbing their second try of the match after just three minutes.
Attacking off a lineout won by Richard Baxter, Whitehead was stopped just short but Aly Muldowney collected and powered over, Mieres’ simple conversion made it 21-3.
Macleod got a penalty back for Sale but just before the break Exeter went over again as Shoemark made a break before feeding Jess for their third try.
And it took only four more minutes before Tatupu caused havoc again before finding Tom Johnson to score the bonus point try for the Chiefs, Mieres drilled a simple conversion against the post but Exeter still led 31-6.
By now Sale clearly wanted to be back in Salford but Jess added his second try as replacement scrum-half Kevin Barrett threw a cheeky pass out of the back of the hand and Luke Arscott found Jess to stroll over for the fifth.
And to complete the celebrations for the Chiefs veteran Chris Budgen emerged from a pile of bodies to score their sixth and final try with six minutes to go, replacement Gareth Steenson adding the conversion.