Gareth Steenson kicked 15 points as Exeter Chiefs ended Harlequins’ run of nine consecutive wins.
The south-west outfit gained revenge for their 40-20 defeat at The Stoop in September and stretched their advantage over the bottom three in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table to seven points. Defeat denied Quins the opportunity to move up to second in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, with fly-half Steenson’s haul added to by flanker Tom Johnson’s second-half try.
Exeter’s victory revived memories of their last victory over Quins, when they won 13-8 back in 2006 at the County Ground – the Quins only defeat in the league that season. The Amlin Challenge and LV= Cup campaigns for Exeter Chiefs are over and the team are now concentrating on cementing their presence in Aviva Premiership Rugby, with this win aiding that cause.
Harlequins mounted an early attack from deep inside their own half with the ball going through several phases of play to take them to within five metres of the Chiefs line. But Exeter defended well and mounted their own attack with Steenson held up over the line. Harlequins were penalised at the resultant scrum and Steenson slotted the ball between the uprights.
Harlequins had an opportunity to level the score a couple of minutes later but fly-half Nick Evans, kicking in to the strong wind, saw his 25-metre penalty sail past the far upright. Midway through the first half Steenson added a second penalty, but when Quins were back in the opposition half the Chiefs strayed offside and Evans got the visitors on the scoreboard with a 30-metre kick.
Play was held up for several minutes when Quins scrum-half Karl Dickson received treatment on the pitch before being carried off and replaced by Dave Moore. Steenson stretched the Chiefs’ lead with two more penalties from in front of the posts before the visitors turned down a simple penalty as they took a quick tap penalty when five metres from the line.
Exeter defended strongly with scrum-half Haydn Thomas smothering his opposite number from a scrum. Quins managed to get the ball wide and were awarded a penalty, however Evans missed the target, leaving the Chiefs 12-3 ahead at the break.
The home side started the second half full of confidence and took the ball through their forwards until spreading it wide, with centre Jason Shoemark giving the final pass to Johnson who had to shrug off a tackle to score in the corner. Steenson’s conversion attempt from the left touchline was wide of the mark before his side appeared to lose a little focus and Evans reduced the arrears with his second penalty to spark life into the visitors.
That was the wake-up call that Exeter needed and Johnson was stopped just short of the line going for his second try. He was injured in the process and had to be replaced after Quins cleared their line.
Steenson kicked a fifth penalty as the Chiefs kept a grip on the game in front of 8,733 at Sandy Park. Quins battled to cross the Exeter line, but wing Ugo Monye’s final pass was judged to be forward. Exeter were forced to defend solidly but were prepared to mount another attack from deep in their own half in search of a second try.