Luke Cowan-Dickie’s first ever Aviva Premiership try sent Exeter Chiefs on their way to a 23-13 victory over Newcastle Falcons to sign off from their season in style.
Two early Joel Hodgson penalties had the hosts in front only for Cowan-Dickie and Ben White to touch down before half-time to turn the game on its head.
Henry Slade sent over his second penalty after the break and Fetu’u Vainikolo went over late on to secure the victory, despite a late Mark Wilson try in reply from the Falcons.
Chiefs’ victory, coupled with Gloucester Rugby’s defeat to Worcester Warriors, means Exeter finish the campaign eighth, while Newcastle ended the season with a 16th straight Aviva Premiership defeat.
Newcastle started the game on the front foot and after just four minutes the hosts found themselves ahead as Hodgson bisected the posts after the Chiefs were pinged for not rolling away.
And just three minutes later the young fly-half doubled Falcons lead as once again Exeter were penalised for the same offence.
However after ten minutes the visitors were back in the game as hooker Cowan-Dickie – in front of the watching England head coach Stuart Lancaster – grabbed the first try of the game, the front rower on the tail of a maul to go over in the left corner.
Slade was unable to add the tricky conversion however as his kick sailed to the right of the uprights.
The score however buoyed the Chiefs and on 19 minutes Dave Lewis looked like he was going to grab the second score of the game only for Hodgson to sprint 70m back to put in the try-saving tackle.
But Exeter did go in front for the first time just before the half hour mark, Slade firing a penalty as the Falcons were penalised for not rolling away.
Suddenly finding themselves trailing woke the home side up but good breaks from Gonzalo Tiesi and Sinoti Sinoti couldn’t come to anything with knock-ons proving their undoing.
And just before half-time Exeter showed their hosts just how to be clinical as White went over to move ahead of Dean Mumm as the Chiefs’ top Avivia Premiership try scorer this season with his sixth. Slade added the extras and Exeter went into half-time 15-6 ahead.
Captain Mumm thought he had gone level with White again when he went over shortly after the restart, however his effort was chalked off for crossing.
The game turned into a scrappy affair from here on out neither side looking like adding to the scoreboard until Slade fired over another penalty on 57 minutes.
Gareth Steenson had a chance to get himself on to the scoresheet with just three minutes remaining; however he sent his penalty wide.
Exeter did extend their lead just before the final whistle though, Vainikolo benefitting from great work from Haydn Thomas to touch down – Steenson again wayward from the tee.
But the last laugh went to the hosts as Wilson was sent over by a neat pass from Phil Godman, the latter bringing the curtain down by kicking the conversion.