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Match Report: Exeter Chiefs 31 Leicester Tigers 10

24 Dec 2016
Match Report: Exeter Chiefs 31 Leicester Tigers 10

Exeter Chiefs leapfrogged opponents Leicester Tigers into the Aviva Premiership Rugby top four as early Jack Yeandle and Thomas Waldrom tries set them on their way to a 31-10 victory at Sandy Park.

Chiefs – last season’s Aviva Premiership runners-up – are once again in the play-off places at Christmas, thanks largely to perhaps their best first-half performance of the campaign so far.

Yeandle and Waldrom went over from close-range in the first quarter before further persistent pressure was rewarded with a penalty try when Graham Kitchener deliberately knocked on, for a 21-0 lead at the break.

Exeter’s defence had also been impressive when called upon and although Harry Thacker and Jono Kitto crossed for Tigers after the interval, Ollie Devoto’s effort in between wrapped up the four-try bonus point.

The victory means Chiefs have lost just one of their last seven matches in all competitions, while it was only a second win over Leicester in the last nine contests between the sides.

A lively start at Sandy Park saw Exeter push into Tigers territory almost straight from kick-off and when the visitors were pinged for a deliberate knock-on, Henry Slade’s unerring boot found touch five metres out.

A classic catch-and-drive then saw Chiefs rumble over the line with Yeandle at the bottom of the pile and Gareth Steenson added the extras for an early 7-0 advantage.

The hosts continued to dominate territory following the opening score but with a returning Mike Williams leading from the front, the Leicester defence repelled the swarm.

Yet back-to-back penalties in their own 22 kept the pressure on and the second try came on the 20-minute mark as persistent hammering at the line ended with Waldrom touching down at the base of the post.

Steenson was again perfect from the tee and with Jack Nowell breaking tackles for fun, the hosts looked the more likely to increase their advantage.

Seeking to parlay dominance into further tries, Exeter spurned a number of kickable penalties and their aggressiveness in booting to the corner was rewarded when Kitchener deliberately knocked on – the Tigers man being yellow carded and the penalty try awarded.

Chiefs then demonstrated some solid defence of their own to stop Leicester narrowing the 21-0 deficit before the break and Steenson stayed perfect from the tee by slotting a penalty shortly after the interval.

With a fire lit under them, the visitors enjoyed their best spell of the match as they pounded away at the Exeter line, earning penalty after penalty on the five-metre line.

Ed Slater lost the ball as he went over the whitewash but on 56 minutes Thacker, who had only just come on, got the try his team deserved by finishing a line-out drive.

Phil Dollman charged down Owen Williams’ conversion to keep the lead at 19 points before Devoto crashed over down the other end, following six high-quality phases, to secure the four-try bonus point, with Steenson familiarly metronomic from the tee for the extras.

To their credit, Leicester responded immediately as Jack Roberts took advantage of weak defence on the left to burst through and release Kitto for a 68th-minute score but it was Exeter’s day as they ensured they will spend Christmas in the top four.