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Post-Match Review

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Exeter Chiefs
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Pictures: Exeter Rugby Club/Pinnacle Photo Agency

Pictures: Exeter Rugby Club/Pinnacle Photo Agency

Exeter Chiefs 25

Ulster Rugby 19

Mark Stevens at Sandy Park

Exeter Chiefs continued their build up for the new 2016/17 season with a hard fought 25-19 victory over Ulster Rugby at Sandy Park.

The Aviva Premiership outfit made it two wins from two in pre-season as they followed up last weekend’s comprehensive 45-3 win over the Scarlets with this latest success over their Irish visitors.

In what was the first of three scheduled meetings between the Chiefs and Ulster this season – the duo are set to meet twice in the European Champions Cup – the Devon club kicked off in fine fashion, scoring four tries through Don Armand, Will Chudley, Damian Welch and a Penalty Try.

England international Henry Slade – who was making his first start of the new season – added a second half conversion and penalty to complete the scoring for the hosts.

972868-2In reply, two late tries from Rob Lyttle helped to give the scoreline a more flattering look for Ulster, the replacement wing galloped over twice in the final ten minutes, while fellow flyer Jacob Stockdale claimed their other try with a touchdown in the first period.

For the Chiefs, though, it was another decent work-out as the countdown to their seasonal opener against Wasps on Sunday, September 4 looms ever larger on the horizon.

The Chiefs made a blistering start to this latest encounter, breaking the deadlock inside two minutes as No.8 Armand finished off in the left-hand corner a scintillating handling move instigated by Will Chudley, Lachlan Turner and former Ulsterman, Ian Whitten.

However, home joy proved short-lived as Ulster – with a howling wind at their backs in the first half – levelled things up on nine minutes when a clever grubber kick in behind the home defence from Brett Herron allowed Stockdale to flop on the loose ball and score. South African scrum-half Ruan Pienaar plundered a sublime conversion from the touchline to give his side the lead.

On home soil, though, the Chiefs are a tough nut to crack and they regained the lead midway through the half when more strong work from Armand, Dave Ewers and Luke Cowan-Dickie saw them punch big holes into the Ulster rearguard before Chudley picked up from  the base of a ruck to sneak over from close range.

Ulster looked to counter at the other end and before the break lay siege on the Exeter line with a flurry of attacking raids. The Chiefs, however, stood firm in the hour of need, denying their rivals and eventually turning the ball over to clear the danger.

For the second half the Chiefs introduced a fresh back division into the fray, including Slade who opened the home side’s account with an early penalty on 43 minutes.

Winger James Short then went close only to be denied by a last-gasp tackle just moments later, but as the home pressure built by the minute, it came as no surprise when a stunning move – which saw at least eight different pairs of hands touch the ball – released Welch in the wide channel and the imposing Exeter lock made no mistake running in close to the posts for a third try.

972959-2Now with a comfortable buffer to play with, the Chiefs began to flex their muscles up front. Newcomers Greg Holmes and Dave Dennis were both handed their first starts, as was former Bath back Ollie Devoto, and it was they fresh impetus in the Exeter eight that led to a fourth try.

With an attacking scrum five metes from the Ulster line, the Chiefs pack combined as one to drive forward, dismantling their rivals at a rate of knots. Thomas Waldrom looked primed to touch down at the base, but before the prolific No.8 had chance to signal his trademark ‘Toot Toot’ move, referee Greg MacDonald had already raced in under the posts to signal the penalty try, which Slade duly converted to make it 25-7.

To their credit, Ulster refused to throw in the towel and in a late throw of the dice, they were rewarded as Lyttle helped himself to a brace of tries in the final ten minutes.

Exeter Chiefs: L Turner (P Dollman h/t); O Woodburn (M Jess h/t), M Bodilly (J Short h/t), S Hill (O Devoto h/t), I Whitten (M Bodilly 60); G Steenson (capt, H Slade h/t), W Chudley (D Lewis h/t); A Hepburn (M Low 60), L Cowan-Dickie (E Taione 60), T Francis (G Holmes 49); M Lees (O Atkins 60), D Welch (G Parling 60); D Ewers (D Dennis 46), J Salvi (B White 60), D Armand (T Waldrom 60).

Tries – Armand, Chudley, Welch, Penalty Try; Conversion – Slade;  Penalty – Slade

Ulster Rugby: C Piutau (S Windsor 65); L Ludik, D Cave (D Busby 65), S McCloskey, J Stockdale (R Lyttle 69); B Herron (J McPhillips 59), R Pienaar (P Marshall h/t); C Black (A Warwick 30), R Herring (capt, J Andrew 59), R Ah You (J Simpson 49, K McCall 55); P Browne (K Treadwell 49), F Van Der Merwe (A O’Connor 58); R Diack (S Mulholland 60), C Ross, R Wilson (M Rea 51).

Tries – Stockdale, Lyttle (2); Conversions – Pienaar, McPhillips

Referee: G MacDonald

Attendance: 6,429