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Match Report: London Irish 15 Exeter Chiefs 22

21 Feb 2016
Match Report: London Irish 15 Exeter Chiefs 22

Exeter Chiefs closed the gap on Saracens at the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table with a comeback win over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.

London Irish led 7-6 at the break thanks to a try from Ofisa Treviranus, but the boot of Gareth Steenson kept Exeter in contention.

And they began to take control of the game in the second half with a try from Dave Lewis as well as three more penalties from Steenson.

Despite a try from Topsy Ojo against the run of play, Exeter were able to see out the win and close the gap on leaders Saracens to just four points.

Meanwhile London Irish remain bottom of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table on a weekend when both Worcester Warriors and Newcastle Falcons were victorious.

Exeter pushed hard early on but it was London Irish who took the lead with a try from Treviranus after ten minutes. It came off the back of a lineout, with Ojo slicing through in midfield after an inside ball. He then found Treviranus on his shoulder and the flanker cruised over. Theo Brophy-Clews had a nice easy kick on his first start to make it 7-0 to the home side.

The London Irish defensive line speed was causing Exeter problems, as they forced the Chiefs back behind the gain line time and again.

Steenson did at least get the visitors on the board with a magnificent long-range penalty, but they were struggling to win the territorial battle as they attacked too laterally.

Exeter changed things up slightly with half-time approaching, using their lineout as more of a weapon and they were rewarded for it when London Irish lost a man to the sin-bin.

David Paice picked up a record 19th Aviva Premiership Rugby yellow card for collapsing the maul.

Soon after Irish conceded a penalty which allowed Steenson to cut the deficit to a single point on the stroke of half-time, with the Chiefs trailing 7-6.

London Irish stretched their lead to four points early in the second half when Julian Salvi was penalised for a tackle in the air and Brophy-Clews knocked over the three points.

Exeter responded quickly with a third Steenson penalty of the afternoon to cut the deficit to one, and they took the lead for the first time soon after.

A period of possession in the Irish 22 gave Exeter the chance to hammer away with their forwards. However it was scrum-half Dave Lewis who made the difference, sniping around a ruck and gleefully diving over.

Steenson converted and on the hour he stretched the lead to nine as Irish were reduced to 14 for the second time in the game.

Ian Nagle was the man yellow-carded, batting the ball out of the hands of Lewis after Andy Fenby had been charged down in his 22. Dean Richards had no hesitation and Steenson made no mistake with the three-pointer.

But despite being down a man, the Exiles responded and got right back in it with a try against the run of play.
Michele Campagnaro, having just come on, had the ball ripped off him in the breakdown by Ojo.

The winger then had just enough pace to reach the try-line despite an incredible effort from Don Armand to try to chase him down. Brophy-Clews missed the conversion, but Irish were back to within a score with 15 minutes to go.

Still, Exeter were dominating the territory battle by this point, and another Steenson penalty pushed the lead out to seven points.

And that was how it remained as the home side had to settle for a losing bonus point while Exeter bounced back from last week’s loss at Sale.

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