Matt Jess grabbed the crucial try as Exeter Chiefs chalked up a 27-6 victory over London Irish to maintain their hopes of a top six finish in the Aviva Premiership.
Fly-half Gareth Steenson kicked 15 points and Henry Slade two while Jess crossed midway through the first half and Dave Ewers at the death, killing off any hopes of an Exiles comeback as the Chiefs moved up to sixth – good enough for a spot in the Heineken Cup for the second year in a row.
Irish, despite showing glimpses of their attacking flair, were well beaten but will have their Aviva Premiership status confirmed if London Welsh fail to defeat Northampton Saints this weekend.
Forward power and high kicks were the early order of the day as both sides struggled to get to grips with the conditions but it was Exeter who began the brighter.
The Chiefs found some early dominance at the scrum and referee Martin Fox awarded the hosts a penalty at the set-piece on ten minutes, only for Steenson to pull his effort wide to the left.
He made amends four minutes later however when Shane Geraghty was penalised for not rolling away as the Chiefs moved into a 3-0 lead.
That provoked an immediate response from Irish however who broke after neat interplay from Ian Humphreys and Topsy Ojo and after working their way downfield, the were awarded a penalty within range.
After already showing some prowess at the lineout however, the Exiles kicked for the corner and won another penalty, only to again squeeze the Chiefs by kicking to touch.
Mr Fox gave a third penalty in quick succession and this time Irish opted for a kick at goal, full-back Tom Homer making no mistake to level the scores at 3-3 on 22 minutes.
Then it was Exeter’s turn to enjoy some ball in hand and scrum-half Haydn Thomas darted through a gap as the Chiefs threatened the first try of the match.
Full-back Luke Arscott then almost went over but was denied by a good tackle from Guy Armitage as Exeter began playing the expansive brand of rugby that has won them so many plaudits this season.
They had to settle for a penalty however but Steenson was on target to restore Exeter’s advantage and on 34 minutes it almost got even better, only for Damian Welch to knock on with the try-line in sight.
Mr Fox had already awarded the penalty however and Steenson slotted to make it 9-3 before adding another on 37 minutes after another Irish infringement at the scrum, handing his side a 12-3 lead at the break.
Steenson picked up from where he left off after the restart and made it 15-3 on 53 minutes but back came Irish and Armitage found space down the right, only for Arscott to cover.
But Irish did trim the deficit when Humphreys was on target from the tee on 58 minutes as Irish continued to grow into the second half.
But Exeter scored the decisive try on 61 minutes when an impressive rolling maul saw Irish’s desperate defence exposed when the ball was spread wide to Jess, who forced his way over – Steenson fading his conversion wide.
Irish did their best to find the converted try that would secure a bonus point but it was not forthcoming as the Chiefs eased to victory, adding a second try at the death with big forwards push – Ewers touching down and Slade adding the extras.