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Match Reaction: Exeter Chiefs 37 London Irish 7

Match Reaction: Exeter Chiefs 37 London Irish 7

Don Armand crossed for a double as Exeter Chiefs kick-started the defence of their Aviva Premiership Rugby crown with a bonus-point win over London Irish.

At a wet and windy Sandy Park, flanker Armand crossed in either half while Henry Slade grabbed the first and Olly Woodburn dotted down late on.

There was also a penalty try and two penalties from the boot of Gareth Steenson for the hosts as they bounced back from their defeat to Gloucester Rugby in round one.

Alex Lewington crossed for the Exiles in the second period as they were brought back to earth after their opening day win over Harlequins at Twickenham.

Man of the match – Don Armand

The Zimbabwe-born flanker led the way defensively for the Chiefs with ten tackles in the victory at Sandy Park. But his work with ball in hand really caught the eye as well.

In the first half Steenson and Ian Whitten combined well in midfield to create space down the left and when Woodburn and Ben Moon showed quick hands Armand was free down the left. But the 28-year-old still had a lot to do and he showed great power to force his way over in the corner.

Then at the death with victory secured, Armand kept going and dived over for his second under the posts.

Try of the match – Henry Slade

Gareth Steenson had already slotted the Chiefs into an early lead when the game’s first try arrived and it was an absolute corker.

Good ball of the top from a lineout near halfway saw Slade stand flat and fire a perfect inside ball to the onrushing Sam Simmonds. The young No.8 – who has been so impressive already this season – broke the line and then repaid the favour to Slade and the centre cantered in untouched for a well-worked try.

Moment of the match – Olly Woodburn

Alex Lewington’s short-side dive in the second half meant that Irish had something to fight for in the final moments, trailing as they did only 23-7.

But their hopes were ended in a flash near the end when Woodburn – player of the season for the Chiefs last year – sniffed an intercept and cantered clear to ice the game and secure Rob Baxter’s men a bonus point.

What they said

Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter: “We had overall control of the match for long periods and it was very satisfying to pick up five points and concede only seven. We were a bit more composed today against a London Irish side who put in a big emotional performance last week in beating Harlequins at Twickenham.

“The second half got a bit frustrating as the game seemed to be petering out. We were disappointed to concede as we missed a great opportunity to get a nil on the scoreboard but we had a great last seven minutes to score two tries and pick up the bonus.”

London Irish captain David Paice: “We knew it would be tough coming here to face the champions. We lost the physical battle in the first half as we didn’t really have the sting in our defence that we had last week. They played clinical rugby and we rushed our play but I’m proud of our commitment in the second half, although we are a long way from where they are as it was a huge step up for us.”

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