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Match Reaction: Exeter Chiefs 38 Bristol Rugby 34

Mark Tainton hailed the guts and resolve of his Bristol Rugby side after they came within touching distance of a memorable Aviva Premiership Rugby victory at high-flying Exeter Chiefs.

Tries from Jason Woodward, Will Hurrell and Gavin Henson put the visitors in control after they fell behind to an early Olly Woodburn score, but Exeter hit back through Thomas Waldrom, Geoff Parling and Ian Whitten.

Mitch Eadie dotted down with 20 minutes to go as Bristol regained the lead, which they held on to until three minutes from the end, when Waldrom crossed to have the final say for the hosts, who secured a 38-34 win.

Bristol remain bottom of the Aviva Premiership Rugby with the threat of relegation looming, but interim head coach Tainton said he could not have been prouder of the efforts from his players.

“We were minutes away from a famous victory, as the players put in a hell of a shift and our defence was magnificent,” he said.

“When they scored an early try, it looked it could be a long afternoon but I’m frustrated that we didn’t get the win.

“It’s getting more and more difficult to avoid relegation but the boys aren’t going to give in and we are hoping for a big crowd at Ashton Gate next Sunday against Wasps.”

Exeter’s win keeps them second in the table behind leaders Wasps, level on 69 points having played a game more. Saracens remain hot on their heels in third, one point behind.

Chiefs coach Rob Baxter acknowledged his side were not at their fluent best, but heaped praise on a spirited Bristol side that played much better that belied their league position.

“You must give Bristol credit as they snatched every chance they had,” said Baxter.

“It was a tough old game and while there were excellent individual performances from Thomas Waldrom, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Olly Woodburn, we weren’t collectively at our best.

“I felt the last two games (Sale and Bristol) have been no-win games for us and we need an exciting game to challenge us.

“Next Friday we are at Harlequins live on TV and hopefully that will bring the best out of us.”

Exeter Chiefs: Dollman, Nowell (Campagnaro 60), Whitten, Devoto (Steenson 60), Woodburn, Slade, Maunder (Townsend 68), Moon (Rimmer 52), Cowan-Dickie (Yeandle 77), Williams (Holmes 52), M Lees (Parling 39), Hill (Ewers 43), Dennis, Armand, Waldrom.

Bristol Rugby: Woodward, Edwards, Hurrell, Henson, Tovey, Searle, Mathewson (Williams 60), Bevington (O’Connell 36), Jones (Crumpton 56), Cortes (Ford-Robinson 40), Phillips (Glynn 67), Sorenson, Jeffries, Lam (Fenton-Wells 12), Eadie.

Exeter Chiefs 38
Tries: Woodburn, Parling, Whitten, Waldrom (2)
Cons: Slade (4), Steenson
Pens: Slade

Bristol Rugby 34
Tries: Hurrell, Woodward, Henson, Eadie
Cons: Henson (4)
Pens: Henson (2)

Referee: Thomas Foley (England)
Attendance: 12,232

Tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final is on 27 May at Twickenham are now on sale. If you want to have an unforgettable day out at club rugby’s best Cup Final then click here for tickets.

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