Exeter Chiefs booked their spot in a third consecutive Anglo-Welsh Cup final as they swept Harlequins aside to win 24-7 at Sandy Park.
The hosts were in control at the interval, with early scores from Lachlan Turner and Max Bodilly putting them 14-0 ahead, but in truth the deficit could have been higher with Quins off colour in the first half.
And the London side could not wrestle back the momentum in the second period, as Julian Salvi and Sam Simmonds denied them a final appearance on home soil at Twickenham Stoop – with Exeter now on course to repeat their 2014 success in the competition.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) March 12, 2017
It was the visitors who started fast, putting big pressure on the Chiefs inside their own half, and Charlie Walker thought he had scored the game’s opening try in the sixth minute.
Charlie Matthews intercepted in the midfield and handed it straight to the winger to run it in under the posts, but the TMO ruled it out for a knock-on by Matthews.
Exeter had the chance to hit straight back with a penalty, but going with the wind they turned down the three points, and that gamble paid dividends as they drew first blood through Turner.
The full-back took full advantage of a poor clearance from Luc Jones to dart through a gap and under the uprights to put his side ahead, with Joe Simmonds kicking the simple conversion.
And Harlequins were at sixes and sevens when the Chiefs scored again before the 15-minute mark, racing down the blindside with a brilliant step inside from Bodilly creating the space for him to run into the corner.
Simmonds once again stroked over the conversion to make it 14-0, although when a scrum penalty went against Quins moments later, he could not make it three kicks from three with an attempt from inside his own half falling short.
📷 Match Shots | Exeter Chiefs 24-7 Harlequins pic.twitter.com/VvNsj5ZssM
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) March 12, 2017
The visitors found themselves under the cosh again in the 29th minute as Stu Townsend made a superb break and bore down on the line, prevented from scoring only by a try-saving tackle and steal from Dave Ward.
But after several scrums on their own five-metre line, Quins eventually won a penalty and were able to clear thanks to some excellent work from their forwards – the experience of Adam Jones and Mark Lambert getting them out of trouble.
Some stern words from John Kingston at the break did the trick for the visitors as they began the second period far more impressively, with only a couple of handling errors stopping them advancing into the Exeter 22 early on.
But direct running from the Chiefs once again paid off, as the back rowers combined for their third try.
It was some good work from replacement Dave Ewers to set it up as Exeter built the phases deep in Quins territory, and Salvi burrowed over from close range to make it 19-0 after 56 minutes.
Kingston tried everything he could to turn the momentum in his side’s favour, sending on the likes of Marland Yarde and Rob Buchanan off the bench, but still Quins could not breach Exeter’s defences.
Walker’s grubber forced a five-metre scrum, but the Chiefs’ dominant pack turned the ball over yet again.
We have our #AngloWelshCup final…
After disposing of Harlequins, Exeter will meet Leicester at the Twickenham Stoop. 🙌🏆 pic.twitter.com/qssySNKhqB
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) March 12, 2017
And it was the hosts who scored their fourth try of the match – just moments after Turner had spilled the ball as he reached for the line – with Sam Simmonds rumbling over at the back of a classic five-metre lineout catch and drive.
There was still time for a consolation try for Quins as Charlie Walker put Calum Waters in under the posts, but it is Exeter who progress to the Twickenham Stoop showcase final.
Tickets for the Anglo-Welsh Cup Final at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday 19 March are now on sale. Click here to buy yours.