Thomas Waldrom’s late try gave Exeter Chiefs victory over bottom side Bristol Rugby in a breathless Aviva Premiership Rugby encounter at Sandy Park.
Waldrom’s score three minutes from time, his second of the match, secured a 38-34 win for the Chiefs, who had to come from behind twice to finally get past a spirited Bristol.
In a match where the lead changed hands four times, Mitch Eadie’s try with 20 minutes to go put the visitors within touching distance of a famous victory before Waldrom had the final say.
Chiefs had won five of the previous six fixtures in all competitions going into the game, the only defeat being the 16-12 loss to Leicester Tigers in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final.
There was loud sigh of relief rather than a roar from the Chiefs supporter at the end of that game. Close shave.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) April 8, 2017
And the hosts might have thought they were on their way to a routine win when Olly Woodburn gave them the perfect start.
Woodburn crossed after less than two minutes, after a break down the left hand side from Ian Whitten. Henry Slade added the extras to make it 7-0.
But Bristol responded almost immediately, and were back on level terms after Will Harrell intercepted a Slade pass for a 50-metre breakaway score.
— Bristol Rugby (@Bristol_RFC) April 8, 2017
The visitors were galvanised by this early response, and Jason Woodward snaffled a pass on the Bristol 22-metre line before racing away for a second interception try.
Slade’s penalty got Rob Baxter’s side to within a score, but Gavin Henson landed another decisive blow when he muscled down the left and dotted down, before kicking converting his own try to move Bristol further ahead of a shell-shocked Exeter.
However, the home side rallied and hauled themselves back into the match on the stroke of half-time. Geoff Parling crossed after a long period of Chiefs pressure, Slade adding the two points with an impressive touchline kick.
This gave Chiefs momentum and they struck within seconds of the second period, with Whitten crashing over and Slade kicking the extras to pull the scores level.
Baxter’s side had the bit between their teeth and retook the lead 12 minutes into the second half after a heavy period of Chiefs dominance. Waldrom was the man to dot down, with Slade securing the conversion.
But Bristol roared back. Henson’s penalty from the angle reduced arrears and they got their noses in front when Mitch Eadie scored a converted try to make it 34-31 and secure a bonus point for the visitors and within range of a stunning win.
Chiefs responded and were camped in the Bristol half, and their pressure told when Waldrom crossed the white line from close range, with Gareth Steenson adding the extras.
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