Chiefs 59 Warriors 7
Exeter Chiefs 59
Worcester Warriors 7
Mark Stevens at Sandy Park
Supporters may have to wait a while longer before they can grace Sandy Park on match-days again, but for those of us privileged enough to watch this current Exeter Chiefs side in action, the on-field viewing is simply picture perfect.
In what has been a near flawless return to top-flight action in the Gallagher Premiership, these high definition displays from Rob Baxter’s side are getting better by the week.
Victories over Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks and, more recently, Bristol Bears had stretched Exeter’s lead at the top to 11 points going into this weekend’s action. By the close of play in these latest encounter, that advantage had been stretched by a further three points as the Chiefs power their way ever closer to securing a fifth successful play-off place.
Forwards Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds both bagged try hat-tricks on the day, while Jack Nowell, Stuart Hogg and Jacques Vermeulen added further efforts in a stellar showing from the Devonians.
Visiting Worcester Warriors were simply no match for their hosts in this one-sided drubbing - their sole crumb of comfort was a converted Ashley Beck try late in the game.
With both sides opting to completely change their starting line-ups from that which took to the field in midweek, it was a powerful Chiefs outfit that took to the field for this latest behind closed doors encounter.
British and Irish Lions trio Cuthbert, Hogg and Jack Nowell, the latter making his first appearance since restart, formed a mouth-watering back three for the hosts, while the pack was equally loaded with a wealth of prized talent.
Worcester, fresh from their first win since the season resumed, opted to rest many of their frontline stars, including star half-backs Francois Hougaard and Duncan Weir, together with the likes of Chris Pennell, Graham Kitchener and former Chief, Matt Kvesic.
A quick glance at the two line-ups indicated a sizeable mis-match in quality - and so it proved as the hosts quickly set about tearing into their rivals.
Just five minutes had elapsed when Nowell released Cuthbert in the wide channel, but although the Welshman did well to offer a pass out the cat-flap, Cowan-Dickie was unable to gather with the try-line just metres away.
Undeterred, the Chiefs made light of the missed opportunity and having won a penalty with their next meaningful attack, Jonny Gray took the line-out before his fellow forwards assembled around him. At the back of the maul was No.8 Sam Simmonds, who drove over for the opening score, converted by younger brother Joe.
One soon became two as Hill claimed his first of the afternoon, the towering lock powering over from close range after Gray and Ewers had done the donkey work with some heavyweight carrying in the build-up.
Fly-half Simmonds converted that score and Exeter’s third, which arrived on 25 minutes. The industrious Gray, together with Sam Simmonds, Cowan-Dickie and Ewers, all propelled themselves towards the line, the latter deemed to have been held up by referee Adam Leal. However, the official had spotted an indiscretion from the visitors and when Cowan-Dickie - as he has done in recent weeks - tapped from the penalty, it was Sam Simmonds who was on his shoulder to burrow over for his second of the game.
It was relentless stuff from the leaders who, by the half hour mark, had already bagged the bonus point. This time it was the turn of the backs to cut loose, Jack Maunder’s sniping run down the blindside creating the initial havoc, before the returning Nowell collected possession and produced a simply world class finish in the right-hand corner.
The contest was already over as a meaningful spectacle, but the Chiefs were far from finished and as the half drew to a close, Hill bagged two more, the first a simple finish after Cuthbert had been held short, the second a more telling effort, the second row galloping his way down the right touchline like a prized thoroughbred, before dotting down to scenes of mass jubilation amongst his team-mates.
Hill’s treble - the first by a lock in the top-flight since March 2003 when former England international Simon Shaw did similar - capped a thoroughly professional first half display from the Chiefs.
HALF TIME EXETER CHIEFS 38 WORCESTER WARRIORS 0
Any thoughts Worcester may have had of the Chiefs slowing down on the resumption were extinguished within 40 seconds of the restart, a slick home attack saw Henry Slade’s looping pass release Cuthbert, who masterfully drew in the cover before shipping a simple offload to Scottish captain Hogg, who scored his third converted try in as many games since restart.
In every facet, Baxter’s side were on a different level. Worcester simply could not contain the all-round threat of the hosts, who thought they had scored again just minutes later when Vermeulen’s rampaging run through the middle gifted Cowan-Dickie a simple score under the posts. Sadly, the Cornishman’s celebrations were cut short, the officials spotting an earlier neck roll by Hogg and the effort was duly chalked off.
It mattered little in the grand scheme of things and although both sides took the opportunity to introduce fresh stock from the sidelines, it was South African flanker Vermeulen who extended Exeter’s vice-like grip on proceedings. Again, Slade provided the telling pass, this time fizzing the ball out wide to the open side, who needed no second invitation to race down the touchline, taking a defender with him, to score in the corner.
With the half century of points safely accrued, there were those in the assembled media who were now beginning to look at the record books and Exeter’s biggest victory since their promotion to English rugby’s top table in 2010.
Worcester, to their credit, refused to lie down and in a spirited last quarter to the game, they showed their resilience. Full-back Scott Van Breda had a try chalked off on the hour for a foot in touch by Caleb Montgomery, while Beck eventually stole over for a consolation score, converted by Devon-born fly-half Billy Searle, with just ten minutes remaining.
In between, however, the Chiefs had already bagged their ninth score, Simmonds getting himself on the hat-trick charts for the second time in his career when he squeezed his way over from a tap penalty just metres from the Warriors line.
The Chiefs could - and probably should - have added more to their tally in the dying embers, but in the end it wasn’t to be for Baxter’s side, who have now collected 19 out of a possible 20 points since restart.
On this showing, it will take a huge effort for an opponent to inflict a potential fatal wound on Baxter’s in-form side. Next stop is a trip to the Gardens where Northampton Saints provide the latest opposition test on Friday night.
Chiefs: S Hogg; J Nowell (H Skinner 51), H Slade, I Whitten, A Cuthbert; J Simmonds (capt, T Hendrickson 65), J Maunder (S Hidalgo-Clyne 55); B Moon (B Keast 55), L Cowan-Dickie (J Innard 55), H Williams (M Street 55); J Gray, J Hill (W Witty 51-62); D Ewers, J Vermeulen, S Simmonds (R Capstick 57).
Tries - S Simmonds (3), Hill (3), Nowell, Hogg, Vermeulen; Conversions - J Simmonds (7)
Warriors: S van Breda, N David, A Beck, W Butler (capt), A Hearle (O Morris 64); B Searle, M Heaney (J Kitto 47); C Black (L Holsey 64), B Cutting (I Morris 51), R Palframan (J Morris 51); J Scott (J Clegg 41), A Kitchener (M Williams 60); C Montgomery, S Lewis (B Cutting 72), GJ van Velze (M Cox 51).
Try - Beck; Conversion - Searle
Referee: A Leal