Exeter ascends the summit
MATCH REPORT: Exeter moved to the top of the Premiership table with a bonus-point 29-20 win over Bristol.
Following emphatic victories over Saracens, 65-10, and Sale, 43-0, at Sandy Park, the Chiefs were made to work far harder for this win by stubborn opponents.
Rus Tuima, Ehren Painter, Tommy Wyatt and Josh Iosefa Scott scored their tries, with Henry Slade kicking three conversions and a penalty.
Fullback Rich Lane scored a hat-trick of tries for Bristol, remarkably all from cross-field kicks from Callum Sheedy, who added a penalty and a conversion.
It took Exeter less than three minutes to open the scoring when Tuima finished off a succession of forward drives.
Sheedy then put the Bears on the scoreboard with a straightforward penalty before the outside-half was instrumental in the creation of his side’s first try as his well-judged cross-field kick gave Lane acres of space to touch the ball down.
A basic error from young Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso was responsible for the visitors’ second try.
A speculative kick ahead from Gabriel Ibitoye was carelessly knocked into touch by Feyi-Waboso and, from the resulting line-out in the Exeter 22, Bristol took full advantage, with another cross-field kick from Sheedy seeing Lane brush off a weak tackle from Wyatt for his second.
(Continue below …)
Exeter declined two kickable penalties in favour of more attacking options and the decision paid dividends when prop Painter crashed over from close range.
A high hit by Lewis Pearson on Sheedy gave the Welshman the chance to put his side back in front, but his 45-metre penalty fell short.
In a pre-planned move, Bristol changed the whole of their front row, with first choices Jake Woolmore, Harry Thacker and Max Lahiff all introduced, despite the game being less than 30 minutes old.
The decision did not have the desired effect. Within six minutes Thacker was yellow carded for repeated team offences as the visitors’ pack struggled to contain the power of the opposing eight and they were fortunate to be only 14-13 adrift at the interval.
Within two minutes of the restart, the Chiefs took advantage of Thacker’s absence to score a third try from Wyatt, but the visitors responded with another cross-field kick from Sheedy, the best of the lot, and Lane raced on to the ball to complete his hat-trick.
Thacker returned before it was Exeter’s turn to change their front row and they were soon in action as the Chiefs conjured up a number of drives close to Bristol’s line.
This time the visitors held out and so it was still a one-point game at the end of the third quarter.
However, the home side always had the edge up front and it came as no surprise when Iosefa-Scott finished off yet another forward drive for the bonus-point try.
Slade missed the conversion, but with six minutes remaining he fired over a penalty to seal victory.
Bristol missed out on a bonus point as James Williams missed a sitter of a penalty in the final minute.
For Exeter Chiefs
Tries: Tuima, Painter, Wyatt, Iosefa-Scott
Cons: Slade 3
For Bristol Bears
Tries: Lane 3
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Tommy Wyatt, 14 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Tom Hendrickson, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Tom Cairns, 8 Ross Vincent, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Ethan Roots, 5 Lewis Pearson, 4 Rusi Tuima, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Dan Frost, 17 Nika Abuladze, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Niall Armstrong, 22 Will Haydon-Wood, 23 Joe Hawkins.
Bristol Bears: 15 Rich Lane, 14 Noah Heward, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Fitz Harding (captain), 6 James Dun, 5 Joe Batley, 4 Josh Caulfield, 3 George Kloska, 2 Will Capon, 1 Sam Grahamslaw.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Harry Randall, 22 James Williams, 23 Piers O’Conor.
Referee: Hamish Smales
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, James Clarke
TMO: David Rose
Another action-packed weekend 💥
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) November 5, 2023