Head coach Rob Baxter admits a weight has been lifted off Exeter Chiefs’ shoulders after they clinched their first Aviva Premiership Rugby win of the season in emphatic style.
Chiefs were simply irresistible in the opening 40 as Lachie Turner and England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie ran in doubles to leave Harlequins stunned.
Harlequins – who had two Tim Swiel penalties and a Rob Buchanan try to show for their first-half efforts – were then left staring at a 36-13 scoreline early in the second half as Cowan-Dickie rumbled over for his hat-trick try.
To their credit they came roaring back through Danny Care and Charlie Walker efforts, while Tomas Francis was red carded for Exeter eight minutes before time, but the damage had been done.
“We have been under a bit of pressure after two losses but it was fantastic to win and get a bonus point as well,” Baxter said.
“We did enough and scored some good tries but we are frustrated by our second-half performance. We should have controlled territory a bit better than we did but I am pleased with the character shown by us.
“We were far from being at our best but I am not that upset that Quins came back into it. They are a successful Premiership side and they have got some dangerous players, who can score some good tries.”
The opening-day victory over Bristol Rugby remains Harlequins’ only success this season and director of rugby John Kingston concedes his side did not help themselves by committing avoidable errors before the break.
“We gave away two soft tries in the middle of the first half when we were 6-5 up,” he said.
“One of them was a simple overthrow and the second came from poor tackling from the first phase.
“It was very difficult to come back from there and we didn’t start the second half as well as we would have wanted. It was a question of too little, too late and the bottom line is that we were punished for too many errors at key points.
“We have to alienate those errors, and it is not about work ethic, but Exeter did take every opportunity that came their way.”
Exeter: Turner (Short 75); Woodburn, Devoto (Hill 54), Slade, Whitten; Steenson, Chudley (Lewis 62); Moon (Hepburn 52), Cowan-Dickie (Yeandle 52), Holmes (Francis 52); Parling, Welch (Atkins 55); Armand, Salvi, Waldrom
Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Marchant (Alofa 58), Stanley, Walker; Swiel, Care; Marler (Lambert 54), Buchanan (Ward 47), Sinckler (Collier 47); Twomey (Merrick 47), Horwill; Robshaw, Wallace, Clifford (Chisholm 54).
Not used: Lang, Dickson
Tries: Turner 2, Cowan-Dickie 3
Conversions: Steenson 4
Tries: Buchanan, Care, Walker
Conversions: Swiel 2
Penalties: Swiel 2