Thomas Waldrom and Olly Woodburn both bagged hat-tricks as Exeter Chiefs brought Worcester Warriors’ fine recent run to an end with a bonus-point win at Sandy Park.
After an unbeaten March in Aviva Premiership Rugby for Dean Ryan’s Warriors – the Chiefs proved too strong in an eight-try victory that keeps them in second and looking good for a home semi-final.
Waldrom, James Short and Woodburn all crossed in the first half for Rob Baxter’s side – who have lost just once at their home ground since January of last year.
The Warriors fought back before the break as Cooper Vuna and Andy Symons claimed quickfire scores.
But after the interval the hosts turned the screw as Ollie Atkins went over before Waldrom and Woodburn racked up trebles to bring up a half century of points.
The Chiefs have won all seven previous Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters against the Warriors and it was the hosts that dominated the opening proceedings.
Despite losing Phil Dollman to injury – Short replacing him – they had built pressure on the Warriors try-line, particularly at scrum time.
A penalty try seemed to be only moments away but in the end prop James Johnston saw yellow on his first start for the Warriors and the hosts ran riot.
First it was Waldrom who drove over from close range for his 11th league try of the season.
Minutes later it was Short with the Chiefs’ second, the winger reaching out to ground in the left corner after quick hands from Ian Whitten had released him.
Steenson converted the second of those two tries for a 12-0 lead but with Johnston still in the sin bin the Chiefs were rampant and grabbed a third straight from the kick off.
Jack Nowell made a searing break from his own 22 and, spotting his opposite winger Woodburn in space, sent through a delightful kick that sat up perfectly for the latter to dot down.
It had taken a while for the floodgates to open but now the Chiefs looked set to run riot.
But – with Johnston back on the pitch – the visitors staged a fine fightback before the break.
A quick tap from Francois Hougaard close to the try line saw quick hands from Chris Pennell put Vuna over in the left corner for his sixth try of the season.
Heathcote could not convert but before the break his clever kick down the line drew a fumble from Woodburn and forced Nowell to concede a five-metre scrum.
And from that set-piece Symons – a late call-up following an injury to Ryan Mills – cut a great line off his scrum-half to dive over, Heathcote adding the extras for a remarkable 17-12 half-time scoreline.
Quite how the Chiefs were not further ahead would have perplexed Baxter at the break.
But in the second period – with the wind at their backs – the hosts re-established dominance within a minute – Atkins grounding from close range for the bonus point score.
This time Steenson converted and at 24-12 the Chiefs had some breathing space.
Before the hour mark Waldrom had his second – once again a close-range surge that proved unstoppable.
Steenson could not add the extras but moments later Woodburn scooped up a loose ball and accelerated clear under the posts for their sixth try.
Henry Slade took over the kicking duties and slotted over, setting the stage for Waldrom’s third score – a carbon copy of the first two – that takes the No.8’s league total this season to 13.
And there was still time late on – with Carl Kirwan in the bin for the Warriors – for Woodburn to complete a hat-trick and rack up the half century.