Radio Exe Match Report: Exeter Chiefs 58 – 26 Harlequins

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Rob Baxter’s Exeter men kept hopes of a top four Gallagher Premiership spot alive with a 58-26 seven try win at Sandy Park in the Devon sunshine.

The visitors struck early in the encounter. With just two minutes on the clock, Marcus Smith spotted space and a faked jink caught Tom Cairns out, allowing the Harlequins fly half through underneath the posts. Smith converted the score for the full seven points.

It was clear from the outset that Chiefs were looking for speed of ball and neat handling. However, a sense of over-eagerness slightly hampered the cause in the opening 10 minutes before they bedded into the game.

Chiefs supporters’, who had been supportive throughout the encounter, ratcheted noise up a decibel or two on 20 minutes played when Chiefs took a quick tap five metres out and with two offloads, put Henry Slade over for a first try. Much like Smith, the England star converted his own score.

After a tense period of play, with both sides taking jibes at one another, Harlequins were first to top up their score. Repeated advantages in the Chiefs 22 gave them confidence and so, they drew in defenders to the maul before whipping ball out for Tyrone Green to canter through a waiting overlap-created gap. Smith converted the score.

Just as Chiefs looked to possibly be getting frustrated, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso came onto the ball. Playing slightly frantically, Smith being hunted down by Greg Fisilau meant the fly-half threw a one-handed blind pass into the backfield. Feyi-Waboso quickly got to the loose ball, chipping ahead to collect and run the ball in, leaping over for the score. Slade took the conversion to even the affair.

Alex Dombrandt responded for Harlequins as the big number eight pealed off the back of a driving maul that the Londoners were look to inch towards the line. With a bit of pace on his side, he was able to break the attempted tackle and crash over for the score. Smith once more added the extras.

Just as the fate looked sealed that Quins would lead at the break, the Chiefs struck back. Picking up a ball on his own five metre line, Feyi-Waboso ducked and dived his way to just short of the halfway line where he had Olly Woodburn in support. Supporting lines from Greg Fisilau, Dafydd Jenkins and Tom Cairns, allowed the ball to find it’s way to Dan John who dotted the ball down on what can only be described as the epitome of a team try.

With Slade’s conversion added, the teams ran in for half time at three converted tries apiece.

Half-time: Chiefs 21 – 21 Quins

It took two minutes of the second half being underway for Chiefs to secure the bonus point. Moving the ball across the width of the field with crunching carries, Exeter took a little time a metre or two out before a gap opened for Skinner to dart through. Slade curled the conversion from the touchline perfectly to add the two points.

The Exeter men’s plight to hold onto the lead in the game was made harder when, with 50 minutes on the clock, back row Jacques Vermeulen was shown a yellow card for cynical play at the breakdown.

In energy terms, the Chiefs didn’t let the loss threaten their intensity. Keeping the tide of the game in their favour, when a penalty came their way just inside the Quins 22, Slade called for the tee to come onto the field. Rather appropriately, it was delivered by club legend Gareth Steenson as he was coaching his last match at Sandy Park.

Slade slotted the kick to top the Chiefs’ score up by three points and put Quins out of touch with just a converted try.

Minutes later, another penalty was awarded to Chiefs and Slade was again confident in is decision to call for a shot at goal. It was the right call as he slotted the kick for a further three points. As he took the shot, time had run out on Vermeulen’s sin-binning and the Chiefs were returned to their full contingent.

It seemed the Chiefs centre had a penalty hattrick in mind as he again called for the kicking tee when given another penalty – this time on the 10 metre – just a couple of minutes later. And the hattrick was his to have as the ball split the uprights.

From one England star to another, Feyi-Waboso got in on the action as he secured a try brace on 65 minutes. Taking ball off the scrum, Skinner fed Slade who released Woodburn. He had his fellow winger in support and in an astonishing example of the young medical student’s power, he broke multiple tackles in the 22 to soar over the whitewash.

Slade dutifully added the conversion for his teammate.

Skinner bagged Chiefs’ sixth try of the day as the game entered it’s last 10 minutes. After a storming run from replacement Max Norey which got Exeter well into the Quins 22, Skinner took a pass with open air in front of him to cross for the score. Despite a charge down from Dombrandt, Slade added the extras to break the 50-point mark.

It was to be the centre’s last impact of the game as he was replaced, to rapturous applause from the home crowd.

After his stereotypical game of tireless work rate across the park, it was appropriate that captain Dafydd Jenkins got himself onto the scoresheet before the day was through. Working ball across the 22, John was brought down just shy of the line and the ball was popped up to the big Welshman to crash over the line. In a man of the match performance, Skinner slotted the conversion.

Quins did have a book-end on the day as Louis Lynagh clawed a score back for the visitors, in turn securing a bonus point for the score having been their fourth try.

However, as Smith failed to convert, the day returned to being very much about the home side. As the squad took a lap of honour at the conclusion of the game, supporters were able to say their goodbyes to those departing while rallying those who will line-up at Welford Road next weekend for a chance at a top four berth.

Full-time: Chiefs 58 – 26 Quins

Chiefs: D John; I Feyi-Waboso, H Slade (Haydon-Wood 74’), J Hawkins (Wimbush 33’), O Woodburn; H Skinner, T Cairns (Armstrong 64’); S Sio (Keast 54’), J Yeandle (Norey 43’), M Street (Painter 57’), J Dunne (Tshiunza 50’), D Jenkins, E Roots (Vintcent 60’), J Vermeulen, G Fisilau.

Tries: Slade, Feyi-Waboso 2, John, Skinner 2, Jenkins Conversions: Slade 6, Skinner Penalties: Slade 3

Yellow card: Vermeulen

Quins: T Green; L Lynagh, O Beard, L Northmore, C Murley (J Evans 22’); M Smith, W Porter (Care 68’); J Marler (Baxter 50’), J Walker (Riley 66’), W Collier (Lewis 50’), I Herbst, S Lewies (Hammond 72’), C Cunningham-South (Kenningham 53’), J Chisholm (W Evans 59’), A Dombrandt.

Tries: Smith, Green, Dombrandt, Lynagh Conversions: Smith 3

Referee: Matthew Carley

Attendance: 14,054

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