Exeter extend Premiership lead
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Exeter Chiefs extended their lead at the top of the Premiership standings with a 26-13 win against Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Five months on from Round 13 of the season, the action finally resumed following the COVID-19 shutdown, with Steve Borthwick leading Tigers as head coach for the first time.
The Tigers started brightly in terms of possession and territory, taking a six-point lead through George Ford before Chiefs grabbed scores through Dave Ewers and Stuart Hogg to lead 12-6 at half-time.
Luke Cowan-Dickie’s converted score at the restart stretched that lead and they added a penalty try for a bonus point before Tigers received he same award to make it 26-13 around the hour and there were no further scores either way in a scrappy final quarter.
Ford judged a penalty kick from 40 metres perfectly to put the opening points on the board with 11 minutes gone.
Ford doubled the advantage with a superb drop goal after strong possession on the left which took him past 600 Premiership points for the club.
But it was the Chiefs who claimed the opening try of the afternoon after Henry Slade prodded a penalty down their right and, after Luke Cowan-Dickie had been stopped a fraction short, Ewers picked up to push over.
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A BP win for the hosts and the fast start they needed in the #RugbyRestart 💪ADVERTISEMENT
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) August 15, 2020
Joe Simmonds pulled his kick wide of the near post with Tigers ahead by a single point approaching the half-hour mark.
Tigers’ Harry Wells and skipper Tom Youngs received direction from the referee after two more penalties at the set-piece but strong work in defence kept Exeter out and Dan Cole clawed the loose ball back for Youngs to kick clear.
Matt Scott showed his strength in defence to hold up Devoto and then stopped international team-mate Stuart Hogg on halfway.
But the Chiefs full-back quickly made amends as he finished a sweeping move from a scrum on halfway to dive into the right-hand corner to give the home team the lead for the first time just seconds away from the half-time whistle.
Simmonds, kicking from the right touchline, this time hit the mark to make it 12-6 as the teams headed into the break.
The hosts were immediately back on the scoreboard from the restart, gaining territory with a penalty on the left and then scoring their third try as hooker Cowan-Dickie tapped as the whistle went again and pushed his way over. The conversion made it 19-6.
Another penalty award for Chiefs brought pressure back on the Tigers pack at a five-metre line-out and it also brought the bonus point score as the referee awarded a penalty try as their maul reached the line and also issued a yellow card to No.8 Jordan Taufua with Tigers now 26-6 behind.
A scrum penalty finally got Tigers back into the attack and, after Ford set up position on the left, Wells caught the line-out ball and, as the maul charged forward, referee Foley repeated the dose from the opposite end of the pitch to award Tigers a penalty try and show yellow to Chiefs lock Jonny Hill.
With the score now at 26-13 and both teams with 14 men, a second drinks break followed, with both sets of coaches keen to introduce fresh legs from the bench.
Tigers were still looking for chances in attack, with Williams almost finding a way through before opposite wing Olly Woodburn dived on his chip ahead on the right and Chiefs having to resist some pressure on their own 22 before eventually finding their way out safely.
The game ended with Williams sensing his chance on the right wing, but the chip was again mopped up in defence as Chiefs brought the game to a close with five points banked.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Ewers, Hogg, Dickie, Penalty Try
Cons: Simmonds 2
For Leicester Tigers:
Try: Penalty try
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Don Armand, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Ian Whitten.
Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 David Williams, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Harry Wells, 5 Calum Green, 4 Tomás Lavanini, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Hanro Liebenberg, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Thom Smith, 22 Ben White, 23 Zack Henry.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Greg Macdonald and Jonathan Healy
TMO: Stuart Terheege