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- Exeter Chiefs
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- Cardiff Blues
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Exeter Chiefs rekindled their Anglo-Welsh Cup aspirations by dispatching of visiting Cardiff Blues with a ten-try blast at Sandy Park.
Ricky Pellow’s young charges overcame a shaky start which saw them trailed 10-0 inside the opening four minutes to power past the Welsh region.
Jarrod Evans slotted an early penalty for the Blues, before converting James Sheekey’s try to leave the home faithful somewhat stunned.
Within minutes, Devon’s finest were finding their straps landing the first of their scores thanks to hooker Shaun Malton.
A Penalty Try, plus further scores from Michele Campagnaro, Damian Welch and Sam Simmonds had the Chiefs firmly in command at 31-10 at the turn.
The onslaught continued after the break as Tom Hendrickson, Stuart Townsend, Tom Johnson, Jack Innard and Tom Lawday all got in on the scoring act to please the crowd of nearly 10,000.
Helping to add the gloss to the home side’s showing was fly-half Joe Simmonds, who not only marked his home debut with a man-of-the-match display, but also weighed in with the remainder of the home side’s points with his trusty right boot.
The Blues, to their credit, were much improved after the break and grabbed a losing bonus point thanks to further tries from James Beal and a double from Rhun Williams, but it was scant reward after a tough day’s toil in the Westcountry.
Ahead of kick-off, the Chiefs marked Remembrance Day with a short on-field service to pay homage to all those who over the years had paid the ultimate sacrifice.
No sooner had that concluded and the Blues were quickly into their stride, fly-half Evans slotting a second minute penalty, before then adding the extras to Sheekey’s score, the No.8 brushing aside some weak home defending to score by the posts.
After six games without a win, it was hardly the start the Chiefs had craved, but within two minutes they were themselves up and running as some powerful bursts from Sam Simmonds, Ollie Atkins and debutant Jack Owlett, created the platform for Malton to rumble over from close range.
Joe Simmonds slotted the conversion to that score and Exeter’s second try, which arrived on 15 minutes courtesy of a penalty try. The home pack had already signalled their intent with one earlier rumbling drive maul – and when they tried it for a second time, the Blues could not contain the swell and referee Luke Pearce had not option but to go under the sticks.
Home celebrations had hardly curtailed before they were on their feet once more, a free-flowing move saw the Chiefs break out from deep inside their own 22. The ball went through a succession of hands before Phil Dollman chipped ahead. Initially it appeared the move had come to an end, but when the Blues fumbled in defence, Italian international Campagnaro – playing his first game of the season – lapped up the loose ball to claim his maiden Exeter try, which Simmonds converted.
Up front the Chiefs were ruling the roost and the only real surprise was that it took until just before the half-hour mark for them to add their fourth score. Again some strong carrying in the midfield saw Exeter make huge dents in the Welsh rearguard, before Will Chudley’s inviting chip over the top fell into the grasp of Welch, himself a former Blues player, to dot down.
As half time approached, the Chiefs thought they were over again, only to be denied by the TMO for a knock-on, before Sam Simmonds finishes off a pass from Tom Johnson to score in the corner.
HALF TIME EXETER CHIEFS 31 CARDIFF BLUES 10
Already out of sight, the Chiefs dragged experienced stars Chudley and Dollman at the turn with one eye on Friday’s impending Aviva Premiership trip to Newcastle Falcons, but it didn’t make any difference in terms of the home side’s dominance.
Four minutes into the second period and it was Hendrickson who was striding over the whitewash for another converted try, finishing off excellent build-up play from young Academy prop Billy Keast and the more experienced Campagnaro.
The Blues countered within minutes with their second try, Beal the beneficiary as he latched onto a clever grubber kick in behinf from Harri Millard to make it 38-15.
However, any hopes of a visiting fightback were soon doused as young half-back pairing Townsend and Joe Simmonds combined brilliantly to set up the former for his try on 54 minutes.
In control of proceedings, the Chiefs took the opportunity to blood a number of their academy youngsters onto the big stage, but there first real involvement was to watch on as the Blues hit the home side with a try double in three minutes.
On both occasions, full-back Williams was the finisher, first trotting over after Dane Blacker had been felled with a last-gasp tap tackle; then punishing some hesitancy from Exeter duo Harry Strong and Harvey Skinner to close the gap to 20 points with as many minutes remaining.
Thankfully, there was to be no further wobbles from Pellow’s side as the Chiefs ruthlessly closed out the contest in the final quarter.
England international Johnson was the next to cross, finishing off a pass from the impressive Sam Simmonds in the left corner; before replacement Innard claimed his first try at senior level for the Chiefs when he was on the back-end of yet another well-drilled catch and drive move.
Cardiff’s cause was hardly helped in the closing minutes with the loss of replacement Rhodri Davies to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on – but even had the scrum-half still been on for the closing minutes, it’s unlikely he would have been able to do anything to thwart the home charge.
Late on, Exeter University product Lawday capped his first start at Sandy Park by adding a tenth try, picking his way through a hole to seal a fine day’s work at the office for the Chiefs.
The Anglo-Welsh Cup will now take a break until the New Year, but on this showing the Chiefs will certainly look forward to its resumption, when Wasps (home) and Bristol (away) lie in wait.
Exeter Chiefs: P Dollman (H Strong h/t); M Bodilly, M Campagnaro (H Skinner 59), T Hendrickson, I Whitten (T Lawday 67); J Simmonds, W Chudley (S Townsend h/t); B Keast (W Norton 72), S Malton (J Innard 59), J Owlett (M Street 72); O Atkins (J Caulfield 59), D Welch; B White, S Simmonds, T Johnson (capt).
Tries – Malton, Penalty Try, Campagnaro, Welch, S Simmonds, Hendrickson, Townsend, Johnson, Innard, Lawday; Conversions – J Simmonds (6)
Cardiff Blues: R Williams; A Summerhill (O Lane 33), H Millard, G Smith (capt), J Beal; J Evans (B Jones 11), D Blacker (R Davies 67); B Thyer (R Carre 63), K Myhill (L Belcher 62), D Lewis (A Peikrishvili 53); J Davies, J Down; S Davies, S Lewis-Hughes, J Sheekey (L Belcher 16-25, H Barnes 55). Replacement (not used): M Sieniawski
Tries – Sheekey, Beal, Williams (2); Conversion – Evans; Penalty – Evans
Yellow Cards: Myhill, R Davies
Referee: L Pearce