Gareth Steenson set a new league points scoring record for Exeter Chiefs as they overcame a determined Newcastle Falcons side to record a 32-17 bonus points win at Sandy Park and surge to the top of the Aviva Premiership table.
The fly-half, who ended the day with 12 points, passed Tony Yapp’s existing record of 1,526 points in the second half to set a new record of 1,532 on a day also notable for the return from a broken leg of England centre Henry Slade.
Newcastle refused to lay down and it took tries from Thomas Waldrom, Phil Dollman, Sam Hill and Elvis Taione to see them off in an exciting second half after the sides had gone in at the break tied at 3-3.
From the kick-off Newcastle looked to put boot to ball at every opportunity with few opportunities for either side to attack from broken play in the opening minutes.
But Gareth Steenson had the chance to get the first points on the board following a deliberate knock-on from Nili
Latu and he made it 3-0 with a penalty from in front of the posts.
With Newcastle determined to slow the game down Exeter struggled to find space although one great break from Jack Yeandle almost saw him burst clear with men outside him.
Despite dominating possession Exeter conceded a free-kick for early engagement at the scrum and shortly after a penalty on the ten-metre line but Falcons fly-half Mike Delany pushed his shot at the posts left of the sticks and it stayed 3-0.
Latu was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch after an extremely late tackle on the returning Slade, with referee Craig Maxwell-Keys opting to keep his cards in his pocket.
Exeter forced a number of attacking lineouts forcing consecutive penalties but failed to get over the line, eventually losing the ball in midfield.
Strong defensive work from the Falcons frustrated Exeter who seemed to run out of ideas as the half wore on and when Hill was pinged for not rolling away from the tackle in the Exeter 22, Delany was presented with another shot at the posts.
He knocked the three-pointer off with aplomb and the sides were all square with half-time approaching, with Exeter ruing a lack of penetration after dominating proceedings.
But Exeter put right any wrongs from the first period shortly after half-time when Newcastle failed to clear following a break from Don Armand, the clearing kick going straight to Waldrom who dived over the line.
Steenson added the extras to give Exeter a 10-3 lead but Newcastle struck straight back, the home side leaving the blind side undefended during a Falcons driving maul allowing scrum-half Sonatane Takulua to dash home, Delany converting to level the scores.
However the setback only seemed to galvanise the Chiefs who rumbled forward and retook the lead on 52 minutes
Good handling from the backs allowed Dollman to crash over the line, giving Steenson the opportunity to make Exeter history which he did with ease, creating a new Chiefs’ league points scoring record in the process.
However Exeter continued to make errors, a wayward pass from Waldrom setting up a Falcons attack and after persistent short range drives Latu crossed under the posts giving Delany an easy conversion to make it 17-17.
The Chiefs went on the attack once more and the referee was eventually given no option but to sin bin Falcons skipper Will Welch after a number of offenses in their own 22.
An intelligent kick from Slade left Falcons on the defensive in their 22 and they coughed up another penalty allowing Steenson to take his personal tally for the day to ten points and give Exeter a three-point lead with ten minutes of the game left.
A brilliant kick from Steenson that stopped inches from the Falcons try line allowed the home side to exert more pressure on the visitors and Newcastle were unable to lift the siege, Hill crashing over from four metres out to seemingly put the result beyond doubt, despite Steenson missing the extras.
With seconds left on the clock Taione secured Exeter’s try bonus point with his side’s fourth of the afternoon from close range, Steenson adding the extras to cap a well-deserved victory.