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Review

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Team 1

Team Icon
Team Name
Exeter Chiefs
Team Score
31

Team 2

Team Icon
Team Name
Leicester Tigers
Team Score
10
Pictures: Exeter Rugby Club/Pinnacle Photo Agency

Pictures: Exeter Rugby Club/Pinnacle Photo Agency

Exeter Chiefs 31

Leicester Tigers 10

Mark Stevens at Sandy Park

Exeter Chiefs delivered the perfect Christmas present to their Tribe of supporters as they leapfrogged Leicester Tigers into fourth place with victory at Sandy Park.

Rob Baxter’s side notched up their fourth Aviva Premiership win on the bounce, courtesy of a dominant first half display that yielded tries for Jack Yeandle and Thomas Waldrom, along with a Penalty Try, which was also converted by skipper Gareth Steenson.

The Irishman added to his tally early in the second half with a penalty, before rounding off another impressive display with the boot by converting Ollie Devoto’s second half try just past the hour mark.

In reply, the Tigers countered with tries from Brendan O’Connor and Jono Kitto, but it was all they could muster in this festive fixture in the Westcountry.

Buoyed by a first-ever Champions Cup win in France, the Chiefs quickly picked up from where they left off in Bordeaux in a storming start to this festive contest.

Cornishman Jack Nowell – making only his second Premiership appearance of the season – set the tone with an electrifying break straight from the kick-off, slicing through the heart of the Leicester midfield to put Exeter on the front foot.

Although Nowell’s break led to nothing, it was not long before the home side were making their pressure count. A deliberate knock-on just by halfway allowed Steenson to kick to the right corner and from the resultant line-out, the Chiefs claimed their first reward of the game.

Thrust into the air, Don Armand took the resultant set-piece, allowing his fellow forwards to combine as one and propel Yeandle over for the opening try, which was converted by Steenson.

1001898-1It was the perfect start for the Chiefs, who continued to offer the greater threat in front of a capacity crowd at Sandy Park.

Sensing they had the edge up front, particularly when it came to the driving maul, the Devonians pressed forward in search of further bounty. A string of penalties to the corner allowed Baxter’s side to not only set up camp inside the Leicester 22, but heap further pressure on the Tigers.

After two unsuccessful drive, both of which were ended illegally by the visitors, the Chiefs used their third attempt to drive in field. Using their pack to eek out the inches, it was final shove that saw former Tigers star Waldrom burrow for the line.

Initially referee Tom Foley was unsure whether to award the try, but having consulted with TMO David Rose, there was no doubt that the score would be credited to the free-scoring No.8. Steenson once again obliged with the extras to put his side in complete control of proceedings.

Although the Tigers did their best to summon a response of sorts, their indiscipline continued to hamper their game plan, a point underlined when they lost replacement Graham Kitchener to the bin for a professional foul just inches from his own line.

Again Foley – aided this time by the advice of touch judge Ross Campbell – consulted with the TMO, who having again studied the footage deemed Will Chudley’s intended pass out to the left to the waiting Olly Woodburn would have resulted in a try, but for Kitchener crude intervention.

Foley had little option but to award the penalty try, much to the delight of the home faithful, who added to the celebrations when Steenson slotted his third conversion of the game.

It was no more than the Chiefs deserved for their attacking efforts, but just before half time they showed they were equally strong in defence, producing a ‘Black Wall’ of defence to repel some concerted Leicester approach play.

HALF TIME           EXETER CHIEFS 21 LEICESTER TIGERS 0

On the resumption, the Chiefs were again quickly into their stride and they stretched their lead inside the opening few minutes as Irishman Steenson slotted a penalty from in front of the posts after the visitors had not rolled away from the tackle area.

Tigers’ Director of Rugby, Richard Cockerill, had clearly seen enough and turned to his bench, bringing on the vastly experienced Dan Cole. The England and British Lions prop was quickly into the fray, helping to propel a Tigers drive towards the home line. Again, though, the Chiefs stood firm, holding firm just a metre or so from the whitewash.

Then moments later it took a brilliant tackle from Exeter centre Ollie Devoto to deny Sam Harrison, after he latched onto a pass from Manu Tuilagi, who had shown a clean pair of heels to Olly Woodurn on a looping run.

It was the first real shots the Tigers had produced all afternoon, but they continued to pile forward in numbers and thought they had claimed their first points of the afternoon on 52 minutes. Sadly, Ed Slater got himself over the Exeter line, but dropped the ball in the process, kind of summing up Leicester’s day to that point.

That said, you don’t become English’s rugby most decorated side without having some kind of steely backbone. To their credit, the 10-time Premiership champions continued to press in numbers, their efforts rewarded when replacement hooker Thacker squirmed over from close range.

1001929-1However, the score – just by the home posts – went unconverted as Owen Williams dallied on his run-up, allowing Phil Dollman to sprint from the line and charge down his kick.

In all honesty it was a suitable reward for Leicester’s perseverance, but the Chiefs were far from finished and with 14 minutes remaining they made sure of all five points, claiming the bonus point try through Devoto.

The former Bath centre claimed his first try in Exeter colours at Sandy Park, powering his way over from 10 metres out after strong build-up play from wingers James Short and Woodburn. Again, Steenson made no mistake with the conversion.

As all four corners of the ground bellowed out the ‘Tomahawk Chop’, it was briefly brought to a pause when Kitto snuck over for a second Leicester try, however it was quickly resumed as the Chiefs lay siege again behind enemy lines.

Although the Chiefs did their best to add further misery to Cockerill’s side late on, sadly there was to be no further additions to the home scoreboard.

In the end, it didn’t really matter to most of those packed inside. For them, Christmas had started on a fine note, now the Chiefs need to make sure there is no hangover in their New Year’s Eve date with rivals Bath.
Chiefs: P Dollman; J Nowell (J Short 64-72), O Devoto, H Slade (S Hill 28), O Woodburn (J Short 72); G Steenson (capt), W Chudley (J Maunder 69); B Moon (C Rimmer 62), J Yeandle (L Cowan-Dickie 56), T Francis (G Holmes 56), M Lees, J Hill (O Atkins 62); D Dennis (K Horstmann 60), D Armand, T Waldrom.

Tries – Yeandle, Waldrom, Penalty Try, Devoto; Conversions – Steenson (4); Penalty – Steenson

Tigers: F Burns (G Worth 69); A Thompstone, J Roberts, M Tuilagi, P Betham; O Williams, S Harrison (J Kitto 64); E Genge (L Mulipola 68, Genge 72), G McGuigan (H Thacker 56), P Cilliers (D Cole 45); E Slater, M Fitzgerald; M Williams (G Kitchener 23), B O’Connor, L Hamilton (W Evans 68). Replacement (not used): T Brady

Tries – O’Connor, Kitto

Referee: T Foley

Attendance: 12,420