Match Report: Chiefs 43 - 0 Sale Sharks
As lightning forked across Devon skies, and with rain blowing in hard off the estuary, Sharks floundered in choppy Chiefs waters, as Exeter conducted a physical masterclass in the tough conditions.
The visitors found themselves overwhelmed, outclassed and outthought by a young Chiefs outfit who will be drawing watchful gaze from across the league after two remarkable home victories to start the campaign.
Under an onslaught of pressure, Sale crumbled, with the men from the South-West claiming a bonus point before the interval.
Perhaps more importantly, they didn’t give an inch in defence, offering nothing to the visitors who failed to challenge the score-board all afternoon.
It was just about the perfect start for the Chiefs, who have made a habit of firing out of the blocks so far this season.
From an early line-out drive, the Chiefs played the sensible rugby given the conditions, tucking the ball in the maul, and taking it to this heavy Sharks pack. Livewire hooker Dan Frost burst clear to set up just 5m from the line, giving number eight Greg Fisilau the platform to burrow over and claim the first points of the afternoon.
Henry Slade added the extras, and extended the lead from the tee just a couple of minutes later, 10-0 to the home side and Exeter getting the better of their northern visitors in the opening exchanges.
In the opening rounds of the campaign, the Chiefs have shown wonderful attacking play, slicing through defences with razor sharp back play. As the wind lashed around Sandy Park and the rain continued to fall, this was going to be a match won by forward power, and that’s exactly how the Chiefs struck next.
From a scrum, Nika Abuladze on his first match since the returning from the world cup made mincemeat of his opposite number to earn a penalty. From there the Chiefs went to the corner and back to their driving maul. Despite an early repost from the visitors, the Exeter eight stayed square and powered over, Dan Frost emerging with the ball. Slade slotted the extras into the teeth of the wind, 17-0.
The weather continued to worsen, lightning bolts providing a flashing backdrop for this intriguing contest.
It became a battle of the skies, with both scrum halves probing and testing, but Tommy Wyatt and the returning Tom O’Flaherty were majestic, claiming everything in a display of aerial brilliance.
Sale are unbeaten in their opening rounds for a reason, and they took the game to the Chiefs, finally managing to string some phases together in Exeter territory but a small knock-on by O’Flaherty with the ball bobbling less than a metre from the try-line gave the home-side the reprieve.
Much has been made of this Chiefs set-piece and despite the all new-front row, there was no loss in power, with the scrum a good source of penalties and field position.
With no let-up in the conditions, the power game from Exeter was ruthless, and the next score came from Josh Iosefa-Scott the big tighthead muscling his way over the line to extend the lead.
As the break approached, there was to be one last score for the home team, Henry Slade pouncing on a loose ball before flicking delicately up to Immanuel Feyi-Waboso who despite a stumble, managed to turn on the afterburners and dive under posts to give the Chiefs a healthy half-time advantage.
Half-Time: Exeter Chiefs 29 – 0 Sale Sharks
The Sharks came out in the second half looking to make a dent in the Chiefs impressive lead, but the Exeter defence looked rock solid, making their shots and forcing the Sharks to try and put the ball through the hands. Given the conditions, the Sale handling struggled, and the visitors couldn’t string enough phases together to trouble the Chiefs line.
With a fresh front-row onto the field, the pack continued their dominance and the Sharks were crippled at scrum-time by the fearsome power and technique of Ross McMillan’s superbly drilled unit.
Despite their efforts, it never looked like a comeback was on the cards, and eventually, it was the Chiefs who rounded out the win with more tries on the board. First Niall Armstrong finishing off a wonderful move that featured a superb offload from Lewis Pearson who impressed all afternoon.
Finally, it was the Exeter eight who ended the game in the most appropriate way. With a scrum 5m from the Sale line, the Chiefs pack demolished their opponents leaving referee Joe James no choice but to head under the sticks and award the penalty try, a fitting conclusion,
No-one will be getting too carried away with the early performances, but for the Chiefs to have dispatched both of last year’s Premiership finalists so comprehensively, it’s hard to not feel the excitement building.
There is talent and star quality littered throughout this squad, and though they may be raw, they are ready to rip into this league.
Today, however, was about desire and work-rate, about cohesion and effort.
This is a team on the rise.
Chiefs: T Wyatt; I Feyi-Waboso, H Slade ©, T Hendrickson (J Hawkins 59), B Hammersley; H Skinner (W Haydon-Wood 70), T Cairns (N Armstrong 59); N Abuladze (S Sio 48), D Frost (J Yeandle 48), J Iosefa-Scott (E Painter 48); R Tuima (D Jenkins 58), L Pearson, E Roots, J Vermeulen (C Tshiunza 58), G Fisilau.
Tries: G Fisilau, D Frost, J Iosefa-Scott, I Feyi-Waboso, N Armstrong, P Try Conversions: H Slade (4) Penalties: H Slade (1)
Sale Sharks: T O’Flaherty; T Roebuck, S James, S Bedlow (N Thomas 55), A Reed; R Du Preez, G Warr (T Curtis 65); R Harrison (S McIntyre 50), N Langdon, N Schonert (J Harper 50), C Wiese (B Bamber 62), J Hill (J Beaumont 53), R Birch (H Thompson 69), E Van Rhyn (T Ellis 52), D Du Preez
Referee: Joe James