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Match Reaction: Exeter Chiefs 32 Newcastle Falcons 17

Exeter Chiefs forwards coach Rob Hunter was full of praise for fly-half Gareth Steenson after he broke the club’s league scoring record during their 32-17 bonus point victory over Newcastle.

Steenson ended the day with a personal haul of 12 points as the Chiefs moved top of the Aviva Premiership, thanks to second half tries from No.8 Thomas Waldrom, full-back Phil Dollman, centre Sam Hill and hooker Elvis Taione.

Despite pressure from the Chiefs the sides were level 3-3 all at the break and the Falcons scored two tries of their own through scrum-half Sonatane Takulua and No.8 Nili Latu to ensure the game was a contest until the final stages.

Steenson’s haul took him to 1,532 league points for Exeter, moving past Tony Yapp’s existing record of 1,526.

"It is fantastic. It is a huge accolade for Gareth. He is a killer in front of the posts, there is no doubt about it,” said Hunter.

"He has been a key part of Exeter's success on and off the field for many years now. He adds so much more than just those points."

Hunter was also pleased to see Exeter and England centre Henry Slade back on the pitch after his recovery from a broken leg, adding: "He is a quality player. They have done an amazing job to get him back on the pitch in such good order. It was a very tough nasty injury for him to come back from but he has worked hard with the rehab team.

"It was tough. We played quite a bit and it was tight at half-time but we are delighted with the bonus point.

"They played some good rugby. We held our composure because it got tight. We had a lot of time camped on their line and when you have that pressure, sooner or later it tells."

Steenson opened the scoring with a penalty after a deliberate knock-on from Latu, while Falcons fly-half Mike Delany levelled things up with his second shot at the posts.

It stayed that way until the break but shortly after a Falcons clearance went straight to Waldrom who dotted down for one of the easiest tries of his career, with Steenson adding the extras.

Newcastle struck straight back, Takulua diving over after a blindside break, before good handling among the Exeter gave Dollman space to dive over, the conversion giving Steenson his record.

But Exeter continued to make errors, Latu crossing after a Waldrom missed pass.

However, persistent infringement in their own 22 eventually saw Falcons skipper Will Welch sent to the sin bin, Steenson adding a penalty to give Exeter back the lead.

A brilliant Steenson kick allowed the home side to pile on the pressure before Hill crashed over, Taione securing the bonus point late on from close range.

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards said: "Defensively, the boys put everything into it. The disappointing thing was we conceded a couple of soft tries. The whole of the pack were outstanding and some of the hits they put in were massive.

"But we lost our shape defensively a couple of times. I thought we deserved a little bit of something out of it.
"They had a few boys missing as we did as well. If we put that accuracy in attack as we did in defence, it could have been a different result altogether."
 
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman, Woodburn, Slade (Bodilly, 72), Hill, Whitten, Steenson, Chudley (Lewis, 53), Moon (Hepburn, 64), Yeandle (Taione, 74), Williams (Rimmer, 49), Stevenson (Atkins, 43), Parling, Armand, Salvi (Ewers, 55), Waldrom
Replacements not used: Hooley
 
Newcastle Falcons: Tait (Penny, 24), Venditti, Harris, Socino, Sinoti, Delany, Takulua (Young, 65), Rogers (Harris, 60), McGuigan, Cusack (Hatakeyama, 54), Botha, Green (Hogg, 55), Wilson, Welch, Latu
Replacements not used: Lawson, Mayhew, Willis
 
Scorers
 
Exeter Chiefs
Tries: Waldrom 44, Dollman 52, Hill 73, Taione 79
Conversions: Steenson 45, 53, 79
Penalties: Steenson 8, 69
 
Newcastle Falcons
Tries: Takulua 48, Latu 57
Conversions: Delany 49, 58
Penalties: Delany 29
 
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Attendance: 9,174
 
Tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final are selling faster than this time last year so with just five rounds to go, now's the time to click here to book your place at the world's biggest club rugby final.
 

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