Simmonds record books a play-off spot for Chiefs
PREMIERSHIP MATCH REPORT: Exeter Chiefs No.8 Sam Simmonds broke the record for most tries scored in a season, as his team swept aside London Irish 31-12 at the Brentford Community Stadium on Tuesday.
Simmonds, called up for the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa, plundered his 17th, 18th and 19th touchdowns – eclipsing the previous milestone jointly held by Dominic Chapman and Christian Wade with three rounds of the regular season still to play.
The first two tries were trademark Exeter, as Simmonds burrowed over from close range, while the third was a high-speed run-in, each demonstrating the try-scoring prowess.
The No.8 has been out of favour with England since 2018, when he won the last of his seven caps, and Eddie Jones was in the stands to witness the latest stellar moment of a remarkable season.
Simmonds struck twice inside the opening quarter to eclipse a mark of 17 set in the 1997-98 campaign and, with younger brother Joe and Tom O’Flaherty also crossing, Exeter left the capital with a bonus-point win that restores them to second in the table – and a guaranteed top-four finish.
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But a crowd of 3,988 saw them forced to dig deep at times as they inflicted a fourth successive defeat on Irish, who crossed through Ben Donnell and Ben Loader and rallied impressively after a poor start.
It took Simmonds just seven minutes to equal the record when he forced his way over to finish a pick-and-go barrage that began with a line-out.
Irish responded with a similar try scored by Donnell that was only awarded when Paddy Jackson requested that it be reviewed by the TMO having initially been ruled out by referee Christophe Ridley.
It was all too easy as Joe Simmonds ran in Exeter’s second, capitalising on O’Flaherty winning the ball in the air to spot Lovejoy Chawatama in midfield and easily round the prop before switching on the afterburners to cross.
And to continue the Simmonds show that was unfolding in west London, Sam Simmonds wrote his name into the history books with another close-quarter score as the Chiefs’ forward power made its mark.
While defensively vulnerable, Irish have few problems engineering tries and in the 34th minute, they showed their ruthless streak when Stuart Hogg was tackled while attempting a clearance and several phases later Loader was over.
The Exiles staged another promising attack as they looked to overturn a 19-12 deficit but the move broke down and it was Exeter who finished the half the stronger side.
Former Wales star Alex Cuthbert was making his presence felt in defence and attack on his comeback from a hamstring injury, but it was on the other wing where the Chiefs struck next as O’Flaherty pounced on a blunder by Loader to touch down.
O’Flaherty went to the sin-bin for tackling fullback Tom Parton in the air and inevitably Simmonds had the final say when he took Cuthbert’s pass to sprint over and complete his hat-trick.
For London Irish
Tries: Donnell, Loader
For Exeter Chiefs
Tries: S Simmonds 3, J Simmonds, O’Flaherty
Cons: J Simmonds 3
Yellow card: Tom O’Flaherty (Exeter Chiefs, 54)
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Phil Cokanasiga, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Ben Donnell, 6 Matt Rogerson (captain), 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Chunya Munga, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke.
Replacements: 16 Matt Cornish, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 George Nott, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Jacob Atkins, 23 James Stokes.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sean Lonsdale, 4 Jannes Kirsten, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Tom Price, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Ian Whitten.
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Adam Leal and Roy Maybank
TMO: Sean Davey