A Haydn Thomas try and a near faultless kicking display from Gareth Steenson helped Exeter Chiefs get back to winning ways in the Aviva Premiership with a 16-3 win over Newcastle Falcons.
The Chiefs had lost five in a row in all competitions while they had not won in the Aviva Premiership since the start of November but three Steenson penalties had them on their way, 9-3 up at half-time.
Thomas then dotted down after the break, converted by Steenson, as Chiefs put in a solid performance in front of the Sandy Park crowd.
While Newcastle, who have now scored just three tries in ten Aviva Premiership games this season, managed their only points through Phil Godman’s penalty.
Exeter started with purpose with Ben White orchestrating a series of quick passes and despite the momentum breaking down, they were on the board on ten minutes when Steenson slotted over a penalty.
The fly-half missed the Chiefs’ Heineken Cup defeat in Toulon last week with a shoulder injury but he was back in the groove straight away, knocking over a second penalty four minutes later after a high tackle by the Falcons.
The Falcons were looking to find some way into the game and were awarded a penalty on 21 minutes.
With the wind going against them, Godman opted to kick into the corner but the visitors could not profit from their own line out five metres out.
Exeter were still dangerous on the break, and having won the turn over, the Chiefs worked the ball out to Jack Nowell, via a clever pass from captain Dean Mumm.
Nowell looked to kick forward but when Danny Barnes was adjudged to have unfairly checked the full back, Steenson gratefully took the opportunity to add a third penalty of the afternoon to give his side a 9-0 lead on the half hour.
But with half-time fast approaching, the visitors launched an attack and were rewarded as David Ewers was penalised for not releasing the player, and Godman opted to go for the points, duly obliging to reduce the deficit to six at the break.
The tables were turned immediately after the break as the Falcons were pulled up for not releasing themselves but Steenson’s penalty just dropped off in the wind for his first miss of the match.
The visitors were happy to let Exeter do most of the running and wait for the hosts to make the mistakes as the game ticked past 50 minutes.
But they went 16-3 behind on 52 minutes as a strong driving maul from Exeter’s line out saw Jack Yeandle throw a clever pass to Thomas and the scrum-half dotted down following a deft dummy.
Steenson, whose break minutes before had brought about his side’s strong attacking position, added the extras.
Newcastle got close to the whitewash on 58 minutes when an overlap saw Andy Saull in space but Exeter scrambled back to force the knock on.
A string of replacements for both sides somewhat disrupted the flow of the game and while the Falcons managed to secure a line out close to the Exeter line on 73 minutes, they were again unable to find the break through.
Chiefs replacement Fetu’u Vainikolo got the home fans on their feet with three minutes to go with an exciting 30-metre break but the Falcons eventually managed to clear the danger before referee Greg Garner brought the game to a close.