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Review

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Team 1

Team Icon
Team Name
Bristol
Team Score
17

Team 2

Team Icon
Team Name
Exeter Chiefs
Team Score
41
Pictures: Exeter Rugby Club/PInnacle Photo Agency

Pictures: Exeter Rugby Club/PInnacle Photo Agency

Bristol Rugby 17

Exeter Chiefs 41

Mark Stevens at Ashton Gate

A lot has happened in the six years since these two clubs last met in league battle.

Exeter Chiefs have emerged as a force not only within the English game, but also that of Europe, whilst Bristol have had to slug it out in the Championship until they rejoined the top flight at the end of last season.

The significant strides made by the men from Devon in that time, however, were there for all to see in this maiden Aviva Premiership tussle between the Westcountry rivals.

Try doubles from Olly Woodburn and Thomas Waldrom, plus a late score for Sam Hill, ensured a second successive maximum haul for Rob Baxter’s side, whose remaining points came from the boot of fly-half Gareth Steenson.

Bristol, on the other hand, are still coming to terms with how the Premiership has moved on since their last foray into these waters – and they will need to improve significantly if they are to extend their stay beyond next May.

To their credit, Andy Robinson’s side showed they are up for the fight – scoring tries through Jordan Williams Ross McMillan and Max Crumpton – but it was never enough to dent the Chiefs.

Locking horns competitively for the first time since that magical night in May 2010, it was a much changed Chiefs line-up that took to the field at Bristol’s impressive new home at Ashton Gate.

Only Steenson – whose 24-point haul that night helped kick the Chiefs into the top flight for the first time – remained in the Chiefs starting XV, while former Exeter player James Phillips was the only other survivor, starting in the second row for the hosts.

And it was not long before Steenson was again inflicting more woe on their newly-promoted hosts, converting Woodburn’s opening try of the night that arrived on just two minutes.

The winger was the beneficiary of a slick handling move from the visitors, which saw the ball shifted from left to right in the blink of an eye, before the former Bath flyer piled over in the corner.

Looking to build on their early advantage, Baxter’s side were then dealt a blow when Ian Whitten was sent to the sin-bin for taking out home winger Ryan Edwards as he looked to collect a hanging clearance from Will Chudley.

Although down a man, the Chiefs continued to look the more threatening and they doubled their lead when Woodburn again applied the finish, latching onto a simple offload from Sam Hill, who had bulldozed his way through the heart of the home defence with one of his trademark charges.

978958-2Fearing the worse, particularly in the wake of their 70-22 thumping at Wasps the week previous, Bristol need to summon some kind of reply quickly.

And that they did on 18 minutes when Edwards collected a Chudley clearance before setting off a dazzling run, which saw ghost around Lachie Turner before drawing in the cover for Williams to slide over for the simplest of tries.

With parity restored on the playing front, the Chiefs quickly got back into their stride as Steenson fired over a penalty just before the half-hour mark, before then adding the extras to Exeter’s third try just minutes later.

This time it was the Exeter pack who were the sole architects, using a plethora of attacking pick-and-go drives to punch their way to the home line, the fruits of which resulted in yet another try for No.8 Waldrom.

As the break drew nearer, the Chiefs looked to press home their authority yet further. However, sustained pressure failed to pay dividends and Bristol were able to hold out until the turn.

HALF TIME BRISTOL 5 EXETER CHIEFS 24

Having just missed out on the bonus score at the end of the first period, it took the visitors just two minutes to bag it in the second.

Whitten’s initial burst down the left set the tone, before the forwards took control. Strong carries from Messrs, Hepburn, Lees and Dennis all did initial damage, before Waldrom again took control at the back of the ruck.

Just a metre or two from the line, there really is no man better in the game than the England international at sniffing out the try-line. Picking up the ball and aided by a couple of colleagues, Waldrom steamrollered over for his second of the night, again converted by Steenson.

Just as they did in the opening half, Bristol again dug deep into their reserves to find a response of sorts. A line-out to the corner from Pisi put them in A1 position, after which the home pack combined as a force to work the opening for hooker McMillan to cross from close range.

978966-2Both sides threw on fresh muscle to up the ante, but it was the Chiefs who again clicked into gear as Steenson extended their lead with his second successful penalty of the night to make it 34-10.

With a mountain to climb, Bristol continued to press away in a bid to salvage something from the night – and their efforts were duly rewarded when – with nine minutes left – they used another well-drilled line-out move to set-up replacement Crumpton to drive over for their third try, this time converted by Williams from the right touchline.

In a scrappy final quarter from the Chiefs, they did claim a fifth try through the impressive Hill, whose strong running saw him shake off at least two defenders to score with ease.

However, Baxter admitted post-match, a much stiffer test will await a week today, when his side make a trip to the Gardens to face Northampton Saints on their own patch.

Bristol: J Williams; R Edwards, W Hurrell, T Palamo, T Varndell (C Amesbury 2-12, 49); T Pisi, W Cliff (M Roberts 65, A Jarvis 80); K Traynor (S Tonga’uiha 60), R McMillan (M Crumpton 60), G Cortes (J Ford-Robinson 60); J Phillips, M Sorenson; J Fisher (J Joyce 65), J Lam (capt), J Crane (M Eadie 49).

Tries – Williams, McMillan, Crumpton; Conversion – Williams

Chiefs: L Turner (S Hill 66); O Woodburn, S Hill (O Devoto 57), H Slade (J Short 68), I Whitten; G Steenson (capt), W Chudley (D Lewis 74); A Hepburn (B Moon 54), L Cowan-Dickie (J Yeandle 54), G Holmes (H Williams 54); M Lees, D Welch (G Parling 61); D Dennis, J Salvi (K Horstmann 66), T Waldrom.

Tries – Woodburn (2), Waldrom (2), Hill; Conversions – Steenson (5); Penalties – Steenson (2)

Yellow Card: Whitten

Referee: T Foley

Attendance: 15,065