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- Exeter Chiefs
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Exeter Chiefs 24
Mark Stevens at Sandy Park
London’s Calling for Exeter Chiefs as they booked a third successive final appearance in the Anglo-Welsh Cup with victory over Harlequins at Sandy Park.
In a dominant display from start to finish, Devon’s finest advanced to the capital in style, setting up a final showdown against Leicester Tigers courtesy of tries through Lachie Turner, Max Bodilly Julian Salvi and Sam Simmonds, whose younger brother Joe completed the scoring with two conversions.
Harlequins mustered a late consolation score through Calum Waters late on, but that was a rare bright spot on a day when the Chiefs ruled the roost.
Fresh from an unbeaten month-long stint in the Aviva Premiership, which included a notable away-day win at Leicester Tigers, it was a much-changed Chiefs line-up that took to the field for this last four encounter against the Londoners.
Of those on duty at Welford Road last time out, only three remained from the outset. Prop Harry Williams started in the front-row, while behind Stuart Townsend and Ollie Devoto were also included as the Chiefs underlined their growing strength in depth.
Harlequins, who arrived with the added incentive of a potential final spot on home soil if they prospered in the Westcountry, paraded a powerful line-up for the third meeting of the season between the two rival clubs.
With the match-ball spectacularly delivered ahead of kick-off courtesy of the Royal Marine Commandos on a zip-wire across the pitch, the stage was set for a mouth-watering semi-final encounter.
Although up against a strong first half wind, it was the visitors who were afforded the game’s first real chance when Charlie Matthews picked off a Townsend pass to gallop clear of the home cover. He knew he wasn’t going to make the line, so shipped the ball to wingman Charlie Walker, who ghosted his way over under the sticks.
Welsh referee Dan Jones immediately called for the intervention of the TV match official, Paul Adams, and following a handful of replays, it was confirmed that Quins’ No.8 Mat Luamanu had in fact knocked the ball on earlier in the play and the score was duly chalked off.
The Chiefs made the most of the let-off, turning defence into attack and gaining reward almost immediately.
An initial line-out move was mopped up by Shaun Malton after it went awry, but when it was fed out to the home back division, Aussie international Turner showed his worth to the Exeter cause, producing a sublime, mazy run that saw him scorch round the visiting defence and under the posts for the opening try, which was converted by young fly-half Joe Simmonds.
Five minutes later and the the Chiefs doubled their tally in equally impressive style, winger Bodilly this time showing his fancy footwork as he latched onto a pass from Joe Simmonds and cruised his way to the line.
Simmonds again made no mistake with the conversion, but his long-range penalty chance midway through the half failed to hit the mark, sailing wide of the left post.
The Chiefs continued to dominate for the remainder of the first half, fashioning a number of decent opportunities, but they were unable to add to their tally.
Twice they fumbled the ball close to the line; Ollie Atkins was held up just short of the line; while a five-metre scrum seemed destined to score only for the officials to adjudge it had gone up under the strain.
HALF TIME EXETER CHIEFS 14 HARLEQUINS 0
With a two-score deficit to make up – and the elements now in their favour – it was no real surprise that Harlequins flew out of the traps on the resumption. John Kingston’s side showed plenty of gusto in the opening exchanges, but the Chiefs manfully held firm under a series of attacking waves.
Pellow’s side happily soaked up the pressure, before threatening at the other end when Townsend collared Joe Marchant just five metres from his own, setting up a line-out penalty five metres from the line.
Replacement Jonny Hill took the resultant line-out, but as his fellow forwards applied the shove, Harlequins did well to counter the Exeter threat, eventually winning a turnover scrum within sight of their own line.
The let-off proved short-lived, however, as the home side continued to flex ther muscles. Having added the hulking mass that is Dave Ewers, it did not take the back-row forward to make his mark.
Indeed, it was from his follow up carry that skipper Salvi was able to add the home side’s third try, the flanker burrowing over from close range for only his seventh try in Exeter colours.
Harlequins turned to their bench to try and re-ignite their fortunes, but sadly they met with the same immovable front that their counterparts had tasted earlier in the contest.
With the game done and dusted, the only real question left to answer was if the Chiefs could hammer home their supremacy in the final quarter.
Dominating in every area, they set up camp deep inside the Harlequins half, probing at will their defensive line. To their credit, the Londoners did well to hold firm, even surviving another score for Turner, whose touchdown was ruled out by the TMO for not proper grounding.
Undeterred, the Chiefs continue to press forward in attack and were eventually rewarded when Sam Simmonds claimed their fourth score, rumbling over from a well-drilled line-out move to put them 24-0 up.
Harlequins, to their credit, kept fighting until the death and in the final minute they were rewarded when Waters scampered over for their solitary try, converted by James Lang,
By then, however, the Tribe were already in full cry, sounding out the battle cry of the ‘Tomahawk Chop’. Already they are preparing numbers for the trek to The Stoop, the fruits of which they hope will result in silverware heading back to Devon.
Chiefs: L Turner; M Jess, O Devoto (T Hendrickson 70), S Hill, M Bodilly; J Simmonds (W Hooley 75), S Townsend (H Thomas 64); B Moon (B Keast 70), S Malton (E Taione 57), H Williams (M Low 57); O Atkins, D Welch (J Hill 51); T Johnson (D Ewers 51), J Salvi (capt), S Simmonds.
Tries – Turner, Bodilly, Salvi, S Simmonds; Conversions – J Simmonds (2)
Harlequins: R Chisholm; C Walker, J Marchant, M Hopper (M Yarde 57), Alofa Alofa; R Jackson (J Lang 57), L Jones (C Waters 65); M Lambert (O Evans 57), J Gray (R Buchanan 52, J Gray 64), A Jones (M Shields 47); G Merrick, C Matthews (R Hodson 64); G Naupou (S South 16), D Ward (capt), M Luamanu.
Try – Waters; Conversion – Lang
Referee: D Jones (WRU)