Match Report: Exeter Chiefs 29 - 20 Bristol Bears
Before the rugby even kicked off there was a tense battle between the sun and the rain clouds at Sandy Park this afternoon. As the sun prevailed, so too did the hometown boys as the Chiefs bonus-point win secures them first spot in the Premiership table.
A close and tense affair throughout, Chiefs were the first on the board though the two sides seemed to jockey with the ascendancy for most of the first half though the hosts remained in the lead through to the break.
Harvey Skinner with a clean take underneath the high ball kick-started the first attacking threat of the day from Chiefs. With Bristol penalised at the breakdown for not rolling away, Henry Slade – on his 150th Premiership appearance – took the decision to go to the corner.
A clean take from Lewis Pearson at the lineout set up a lovely line to be cut by Jacques Vermeulen on the carry with Ross Vintcent – on his maiden Premiership start – providing good support. Recycling metres out, eventual Man of the Match Rusi Tuima was the man to take the final pass for the opening score which Slade then converted.
Callum Sheedy responded for Bristol with a penalty quickly followed by a Rich Lane try. Lane’s luck was a byproduct of Sheedy spotting a gap of loose space. The Bristol fly-half darted a ball through for Lane to find in the corner to score.
Lane had another ten minutes later as Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, finding himself the lone man back and having to juggle a tough ball, had the ball pop out of his grasp and into touch, giving Bristol the lineout. Magnus Bradbury charged for the line with the main carry but was well wrapped up by Pearson.
Bristol worked the close phases before Sheedy again chipped a ball out to Lane. The Bears man was caught by Tommy Wyatt but managed to twirl out of his opposite number’s grasp to cross the line.
Working their way through some tough work, and dealing with a couple of handling errors, Chiefs ultimately made the most of their advantages in the Bristol 22 just shy of 30 minutes. From the tap-and-go the Devon men bulldozed over with Ehren Painter emerging from the rubble as the try scorer. Slade converted for the full seven-point score.
Bristol had the chance at a penalty to take the lead before half-time but Sheedy’s attempt was just short of the crossbar. Bristol’s luck then took another hit as replacement hooker Harry Thacker – freshly on the field – was sent to the sin bin for offside in the corner though Chiefs were eventually called held-up.
Half-time: Chiefs 14 – 13 Bears
Chiefs came out swinging at the start of the second 40 minutes. Swarming over the Bristol breakdown, Vintcent nabbed the ball from the base – seemingly whilst no one was looking, as he was able to break unchallenged. Tom Hendrickson ran a great support line to be released for a twinkle-toed dart into the Bristol 22. Recycling ball, it was a tense minute or so before Wyatt sniped over for the try which Slade converted.
Lane responded for Bristol with his hattrick score. His party trick of the day – claiming a chip-kick out on the wing – saw him storm in for the score in the far corner. Sheedy added the extras to bring the opposition within a point on the scoreboard.
There were some tense times as Chiefs were pushed all the way back to their own 5m line with Bristol breathing down their necks, hunting for a lead. However, a penalty at the scrum was enough to relieve pressure for the hosts.
With the game approaching 70 minutes played, Chiefs secured the all-important bonus point score. Attacking with gusto, repeated penalties allowed the Exeter men to gradually flow down field into the Bristol 22. Going with a quick tap option, the power of the front rowers secured a break over the whitewash with Josh Iosefa-Scott claiming the try to his name.
The Exeter scrum – looking strong at the beginning of this season under the tutelage of new Scrum Coach Ross MacMillan – gained an important penalty in the 73rd minute, allowing Slade to call for a shot at goal. With the penalty secured, Chiefs moved out of range of their opposition on the board.
And with that, Chiefs claimed the bonus-point win, secured Sandy Park as a fortress – where they are unbeaten in over a year now – and moved up to first in the Premiership table.
Full-time: Chiefs 29 – 20 Bears
Chiefs: T Wyatt; I Feyi-Waboso, H Slade, T Hendrickson (J Hawkins 64’), O Woodburn; H Skinner, T Cairns (N Armstrong 57’); S Sio (N Abuladze 48’), J Yeandle (c) (D Frost 48’), E Painter (J Iosefa-Scott 48’), R Tuima, L Pearson (D Jenkins 54’), E Roots, J Vermeulen, R Vintcent (A Davis 54’).
Not used replacements: W Haydon-Wood
Tries: Tuima, Painter, Wyatt, Iosefa-Scott Conversions: Slade 3 Penalties: Slade.
Bears: R Lane; N Heward (P O’Connor 72’), V Vakatawa, B JV Rensburg (J Williams 63’), G Ibitoye; C Sheedy, K Marmion (H Randall 56’); S Grahamslaw (J Woolmore 31’), W Capon (H Thacker 31’), G Kloska (M Lahiff 31’), J Caulfield (D Thomas 40’), J Batley, J Dun (E Holmes 71’), F Harding (c), M Bradbury.
Tries: Lane 3 Conversions: Sheedy Penalties: Sheedy
Yellow card: H Thacker
Referee: Hamish Smales