The Exeter Chiefs juggernaut shows no sign of slowing as they stretched their Aviva Premiership Rugby unbeaten run to ten games and boss Rob Baxter hailed his side’s showing as their relentless pursuit of a top-two finish continues.
Exeter moved to within a point of leaders Wasps at the top of the table as they recorded a bonus point score against in-form Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
Tries from Kai Horstmann, Stu Townsend, Mitch Lees and a penalty score handed the Chiefs a crucial win as Exeter demonstrated a powerful forward showing and disciplined defensive effort.
Baxter said: “I thought we actually grew throughout the game and that was the important thing for us.
“To be fair, when we have come here in the past, we have been overwhelmed and rolled.
“Barring the first few minutes when that did happen we actually managed to take the next level up in terms of intensity, we started to win the collisions and actually we scored quite a few of our points fairly simply.
“Our individual intensity levels at the minute are absolutely fantastic and I think we capitalised with our scores at key moments.
“We talk about intensity just to keep the game very simple for ourselves, you are one part of a 15-man machine and if you do your part well, then the team goes well.
“If you go flat out as hard as you can throughout, you will create moments that you can capitalise on and that’s what we have done this evening.”
Leicester boss Aaron Mauger was left frustrated that his side had been unable to cash in on their electric start to the game.
“This is a massive night for Exeter!”
Parling reacts after his Man of the Match performance against his old side. https://t.co/S6p5y4sDrq
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) March 3, 2017
A needless charge down by fly half Owen Williams handed Exeter an early route back into the game as Horstmann capitalised on the error to score and the Chiefs never looked back after.
A period of sustained pressure after the break seemed likely to lead to a Leicester fightback but despite the sin-binning of former Tiger Geoff Parling, Exeter held firm.
Mauger said: “I had to make some changes and leave some bodies out because those guys didn’t prepare with us this week.
“There were some crucial moments that we didn’t capitalise on during the game. The early charge down didn’t help us and changed the tide, while we didn’t take advantage of Geoff Parling being in the bin.
“They went and scored down the other end right away, they used their experience well and they deserved their win; that’s for sure.
“The injury to Sam Harrison certainly didn’t help us, Freddie Burns has not spent a lot of time at scrum half, we had a bit of a reshuffle but we were probably chasing the game by then.”
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) March 3, 2017
Former Tiger Parling was handed the man-of-the-match gong after a series of impressive steals in the line-out.
And the former England international revealed it was a pre-game tactic to target the Leicester set piece and unsettle the home team.
Parling said: “This is a huge statement to the rest of the league.
“We have been on a bit of a roll in the Premiership and this just shows we’re capable of going away to big grounds and putting in big performances.
“We work very hard on our lineouts, we have been looking at it all week and I thought the whole pack fronted up very, very well.
“If you come away to Welford Road you need to think what do the Tigers really pride themselves on and that’s the set piece. We knew we had to really front up in that area and we’re really pleased.
“It’s a massive night for Exeter, we want to really push on, we want to be in that final again and we know we’re on a bit of a roll presently.”
Leicester: Veainu; Thompstone, Smith (Burns, 55), Mermoz, Pietersen; O Williams, Kitto (Harrison, 45); Rizzo (Genge, 41), T Youngs (capt) (McGuigan, 54), Bateman (Cilliers, 54), Fitzgerald, Barrow, Croft (M Williams, 45), O’Connor, Hamilton (McCaffrey, 73)
Replacements not made: Betham
Exeter: Dollman; Woodburn, Whitten, Devoto, Short (Hill, 69); Slade (J Simmons, 78), Townsend (Maunder, 60); Rimmer (Moon, 48), Cowan-Dickie (Yeandle, 60), Williams (Francis, 48), Lees (S Simmonds, 69), Parling (Hill, 63), Armand (capt), Horstmann, Waldrom
Leicester Tigers 15-34 Exeter Chiefs
Tries: Rizzo, Mermoz
Tries: Horstmann, Townsend, Lees, penalty try
Conversions: Slade 4
Penalties: Slade 2
Referee: Matthew Carley