Chiefs 52 Warriors 17
Exeter Chiefs 52
Glasgow Warriors 17
Mark Stevens at Sandy Park
They had been threatening it for weeks, but tonight the Exeter Chiefs finally cut loose.
Rob Baxter has watched with interest as his players have slowly grown in confidence, producing a string of results over the last six weeks that have showed the Devonians are starting to hit their groove.
The one blip in that period was a 22-7 reverse away to Glasgow Warriors just before Christmas. In the fog at Scotstoun, the Chiefs were undone by their Scottish counterparts who were good value for their money on the night.
This return leg, though, belonged to Baxter’s men who having traded blows with their rivals during a keenly-contested first half, pulverised their opponents in the second half to help seal a record win in Europe.
Winger Tom O’Flaherty led the way for the hosts, helping himself to a hat-trick of tries in a man of the match performance, but there were further touchdowns for Sam Simmonds (2), Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Dave Ewers. Fly-half Joe Simmonds slotted four conversions, before Henry Slade took over the kicking duties late on to add two further efforts.
In reply, Kiran McDonald and Matt Fagerson both found their way over the whitewash for the Warriors, while Ross Thompson helped himself to the remainder of their points with conversions to both scores, as well as a penalty.
Returning to European action for the first time since the two met last month, the Chiefs headed into the game having to make a number of changes to the side that lost at Harlequins last time out. Suspension ruled Alec Hepburn out of the equation, so Ben Moon came into the front-row alongside Luke Cowan-Dickie, who was back to skipper the side from hooker.
Injuries to Jonny Gray and Jonny Hill meant it was a new-look second row for the hosts, while behind O’Flaherty was back on the wing having missed the trip to the capital following a head knock in the previous week’s win over Bristol Bears.
The Warriors, meanwhile, arrived in the Westcountry parading many of those on duty the last time the two sides met. Headed up by Ali Price at scrum-half, the visitors started brightly and broke the game’s deadlock on seven minutes when Thompson slotted a routine penalty after French referee Romain Poite had pulled up the Chiefs for straying offside deep inside their own 22.
It was an early setback for the Chiefs, but they were quickly on the offensive themselves, propelling themselves towards the Glasgow line, only for Poite – on his 100th European outing – to rule the ball had been held up.
Undeterred, the Chiefs continued to push forward in numbers and midway through the first half their pressure was finally rewarded when off the back of a scrum in midfield, Jack Maunder, Slade and Joe Simmonds combined beautifully to release O’Flaherty in space.
Still with plenty to do, the Londoner – who had Nowell and Stuart Hogg outside of him – stepped back inside against the cover, using his legs to power over for the game’s opening try, converted by Simmonds.
Five minutes later and the Chiefs were doubling their tally. Created by some strong turnover work involving Sean Lonsdale and Ian Whitten, the home side kicked the ball into the corner from a penalty to set-up a driving line-out which, as is often the case, the Exeter eight formed as one to send Sam Simmonds over for the converted score.
A hefty one-two from the Chiefs, the Warriors had to regather themselves quickly. To their credit, they did just that, hauling themselves back into contention just past the half-hour mark when Turner peeled off the back of a maul to give them front foot ball. With the cavalry close at hand, it was the giant frame of McDonald, who picked up from the base of a ruck and drove over from close range for the try.
HALF TIME EXETER CHIEFS 14 GLASGOW WARRIORS 10
Having given themselves a sniff of recovery just before the interval, the Warriors came out firing at the start of the second half, reclaiming the lead inside five minutes when sustained pressure allowed Jack Dempsey to offload the ball to Fagerson, who needed no second invitation to cross the line. Thompson converted to edge his side in front by three points.
It would be, however, Glasgow’s rare moment of success as the Chiefs clicked back into life with deadly effect.
The introduction of Namibian-born prop Patrick Schickerling helped shore up the home scrum and from his first involvement at the set-piece, Slade banged the penalty to within five metres of the Warriors line. It was reminiscent of his kick back in 2017 against Saracens and, just like that occasion, the Chiefs prospered from near enough the ensuing play.
Ewers – on his 200th appearance for the club – was deemed held up over the line, but with the Warriors infringing in the build up to that play, Cowan-Dickie caught the visitors off guard with a tap penalty that allowed Sam Simmonds the opportunity to go low and drive over from close range.
Younger brother Joe slotted the extras to that score and to Exeter’s bonus points effort which, incidentally, he set up with a clever cross-field kick that allowed O’Flaherty the simplest of tasks to dot down as the hosts went wide off a penalty advantage.
With the breathing space they had desired, now it was time for the Chiefs to flex their muscles further. Like schoolyard bullies, they picked on the Warriors with a brutal assault of attacking play.
Cowan-Dickie was next to cross, finishing off a close-range driving maul, before a sensational backs move ripped apart the Glasgow rearguard, Hogg feeding O’Flaherty to steam over for his hat-trick score on 67 minutes.
It was now one-way traffic as Sam Simmonds thought he had claimed his hat-trick score, only for the officials to pull it back for a forward pass earlier in the move.
It mattered not in the grand scheme of things, but with watching England head coach Eddie Jones in the stands, Nowell reminded the Australian of his proven talents, picking a lovely line through the middle of the Glasgow back division to race over for a seventh try.
By this time Glasgow were already done and dusted, no doubt thinking about the flight back home. However, the Chiefs were far from finished and with one final hurrah, it was Ewers who put the seal on their success, barging his way over in the dying embers for a deserved score, converted by the boot of Slade.
The victory ensured the Chieds put themselves firmly back in the qualification picture. Next up is a trip to Montpellier, a week today.
Chiefs: S Hogg; J Nowell, H Slade, I Whitten (T Hendrickson 65), T O’Flaherty; J Simmonds (H Skinner 74), J Maunder (S Maunder 67); B Moon (J Kenny 67), L Cowan-Dickie (capt, J Innard 74), J Iosefa-Scott (P Schickerling 47); S Skinner, S Lonsdale; D Ewers, J Kirsten (D Jenkins 73), S Simmonds (D Armand 73).
Tries – O’Flaherty (3), S Simmonds (2), Cowan-Dickie, Nowell, Ewers; Conversions – J Simmonds (4), Slade (2)
Warriors: J McKay; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu (D Weir 64), S Johnson, C Forbes (S Cancelliere 54); R Thompson, A Price (capt, G Horne); J Bhatti (O Keeble 60), G Turner (F Brown h/t), Z Fagerson (E Pieretto 65); S Cummings, K McDonald (L Bean 73); M Fagerson, R Darge (R Wilson 59), J Dempsey.
Tries – McDonald, M Fagerson; Conversions – Thompson (2); Penalty – Thompson
Referee: R Poite