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- Exeter Chiefs
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- Newcastle Falcons
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Exeter Chiefs 36
Newcastle Falcons 14
Mark Stevens at Sandy Park
James Short try-scoring hot streak shows no sign of abaiting as he added two more to his tally as Exeter Chiefs powered to victory over Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park.
The winger scored a try in each half as Rob Baxter’s side moved up to second in the Aviva Premiership standings thanks to another maximum haul of points.
A penalty try, together with further scores for Harry Williams and Sam Skinner, were the other key highlights for Devpn’s finest, whose other points came courtesy of fly-half Joe Simmonds on his first top flight start.
In reply, the Falcons offered a genuine threat in the opening 40 minutes, scoring tries through Vereniki Goneva and Rob Vickers, both of which were converted by Sonatane Takulua, but the sparkle of the first period had lost its fizz in the second and it was the Chiefs who were left to toast another notable win.
Looking to build on their impressive victory at Worcester the week previous, head coach Baxter was forced into change ahead of kick-off due to injuries and international call-ups.
Absent from duty were the injured duo of Dave Dennis and Gareth Steenson, while Six Nations involvement meant Michele Campagnaro and Henry Slade also missed out. That meant Kai Horstmann and Simmonds came into the side, as did the new midfield pairing of Ian Whitten and Ollie Devoto. The other changes in personnel saw Jack Yeandle return to skipper the side with Shaun Malton dropping to the bench and Thomas Waldrom recalled at No.8.
The Falcons, meanwhile, enjoying their best Premiership campaign in years, arrived in Devon fresh from an impressive home win over Northampton Saints and looking to claim the scalp of the Chiefs to their list of sides defeated already this term.
With a strong southerly wind at their backs, the Northerners got off to a dream start, opening the scoring inside five minutes. Determined work up front saw them drive deep into the Exeter half, before the ball was switched from left to right, creating the platform for Fijian flyer Goneva to cross in the corner for the converted score.
Worse could have followed moments later when the dangerous Goneva picked off a pass from Waldrom and set off down field at a rate of knots. Although his charge was halted by good cover defence from Phil Dollman, the visitors spun the ball back inside to Joel Hodgson who, with time and space, seemed destined to score, only to spill the ball at the crucial moment.
The Chiefs made the most of the turnover, working the ball out to the left flank where Short collected the ball in the wide channel. With plenty still to do, the Exeter speedster turned on the after burners to race clear of the cover and cruise in under the sticks for the try, converted by Simmonds from in front of the posts.
Home cheers, however, were to prove short-lived as the Falcons – in their next meaningful attack – again made the telling breakthrough. Callum Chick’s burst through the middle, coupled with a mazy run, got the visitors to within touching distance of the line.
Although Baxter’s side repelled two close-range, pick-and-go attempts, a third proved more profitable for the Falcons as prop Rob Vickers burrowed over for the score, converted by scrum-half Takulua.
Up against it somewhat, the Chiefs regrouped and by half time they were back on song and in the lead for the first time.
Strong carries through the middle from former Falcon Geoff Parling and Don Armand saw them punch significant holes into the Newcastle rearguard before Waldrom took up the charge. The No.8 drove low for the line, but although stopped he was able to recycle for Williams to crash over.
Simmonds landed the extras to that score and a penalty with the last action of the half as the Chiefs held a slender advantage at the break.
HALF TIME EXETER CHIEFS 17 NEWCASTLE FALCONS 14
The opening exchanges of the second half were largely uneventful as the two rivals looked to gain the ascendancy early on. Handling errors and an over exuberance to try and play too much was causing issues for both sides, before the Chiefs finally started to take a grip on proceedings.
Having turned down a kickable penalty in favour of a five-metre scrum, Baxter’s side sensed the opportunity was there for them to strike. The first set-piece brought about another penalty, the second a free-kick, the third though had the desired effect as the Exeter eight combined as one to force the penalty try, again converted by the boot of Simmonds.
Falcons coach Dean Richards introduced the experienced trio of Scott Lawson, Ally Hogg and Mike Delany into the fray in a bid to re-ignite their charge, but they found it tough sailing against Exeter’s ferocious attacking wave.
Exeter’s line-speed in defence was again impressive, as was the determination of those in black jerseys to chop down their rivals at source. The Falcons were finding it tough to make inroads into the Chiefs half, let alone on their scoreboard where they trailed by ten points.
When they did finally get some territory within the home 22, it lasted no more than a few seconds as the Chiefs turned over possession and put them back on their haunches thanks to a booming clearance from Sam Hill.
From the resultant line-out, the Falcons missed their man, the Chiefs lapped up the loose ball and again put themselves within strike range. Two drives were held up before the ball was spun out to replacement Skinner, who thundered in under the sticks for his maiden Premiership score, converted by the reliable boot of Simmonds.
Bonus point secured and in the bag, now the Chiefs wanted to finish with a flourish and that they did as they added a fifth score with the final play of the game.
Dollman instigated the attack centre field before feeding the ball to replacement Will Hooley, whose sublime grubber kick in behind the static Falcons defence fell invitingly into the grasp of Short, who touched down with little resistance to make it five tries in two games.
Next up for the Chiefs is Friday night’s testing trip to Leicester, where the Tigers lie in wait.
Chiefs: P Dollman; O Woodburn, I Whitten, O Devoto (S Hill 57), J Short; J Simmonds (W Hooley 73), J Maunder (S Townsend 57); B Moon (C Rimmer 61), J Yeandle (capt, S Malton 72), H Williams (M Low 73); M Lees (O Atkins 75), G Parling; K Horstmann (S Skinner 72), D Armand, T Waldrom.
Tries – Short (2), Williams, Penalty Try, Skinner; Conversions – J Simmonds (4); Penalty – J Simmonds
Falcons: A Tait, V Goneva, C Harris, D Waldouck (F Burdon 70), S Sinoti; J Hodgson (M Delany 57), S Takulua (S Egerton 70); R Vickers (B Harris 57), B Sowrey (S Lawson 57), S Wilson (D Wilson h/t); C Green, E Olmstead (G Lawson 70); C Chick, W Welch (capt), N Latu (A Hogg 64).
Tries – Goneva, Vickers; Conversions – Takulua (2)
Referee: I Tempest