Gareth Steenson was in inspired form as he helped Exeter Chiefs to a bonus-point victory at Sixways, despite a brave fight-back from Worcester Warriors.
The fly-half scored a try and kicked 13 points as the Chiefs ran out 38-33 winners – Sam Hill, Dave Lewis and two Jack Yeandle scores also contributing.
David Lemi scored two in reply, as well as tries from Chris Pennell and Augstin Creevy, but Worcester simply had too much to do having been 21-3 behind after just 25 minutes.
The Warriors’ two-point haul with a try and a losing bonus point does mean that they close the gap to second bottom Newcastle Falcons to seven points although their rivals play tomorrow.
Ryan Lamb had the game’s first point-scoring opportunity on four minutes but he pulled his penalty left of the uprights despite striking the ball well.
But his opposite number Steenson provided the spark that saw Exeter strike first on ten minutes as his surging run – that saw him break three tackles – paved the way for Lewis to go over in the corner.
Steenson was successful with the conversion and although Lamb got Worcester on the scoreboard with a penalty the Chiefs fly-half provided the assist for his side’s second try of the game.
Fetu’u Vainikolo’s break and excellent offload to Dean Mumm had the Warriors defence struggling to organise themselves and with quick ball it was Steenson who found eventual try scorer Hill, before nailing the conversion.
That saw Exeter go 14-3 ahead after 18 minutes and after another missed penalty from Lamb, Steenson had a try of his own just seven minutes later after a Hill break had put him in under the posts.
A simple conversion followed to put Exeter 21-3 in front but then the Warriors staged something of a comeback with two tries in as many minutes.
Pennell went over on 32 minutes after finishing off what must have been a well-rehearsed move, the full-back being the fed the ball on the short side following a solid scrum.
Lamb’s wayward kicking display continued as he missed the conversion but minutes later Worcester had closed the gap further thanks to Lemi’s opportunistic score.
Worcester capitalised on a loose ball following an Exeter knock-on and Lemi proved too quick for Matt Jess as he collected his own kick to score – this time Lamb successful from the kicking tee to take the score to 21-15.
Steenson then missed a penalty just before half-time but a well-controlled maul from Exeter allowed Yeandle to touch down for a bonus-point score with the last action of the first half – Steenson converting for a 28-15 lead.
Lamb got the first points of the second half with a penalty but yet again Exeter’s cutting edge was evident as Yeandle touched down, Steenson converting for 35-18.
The Warriors though didn’t give in and again closed the gap through Creevy’s score on 52 minutes, the hooker going over after great patience from the Worcester side.
Lamb’s conversion was good, reducing the deficit to 35-25, but Steenson added another penalty five minutes later to move Exeter into a 38-25 lead.
Replacement James Scaysbrook was then shown a yellow card for a professional foul with Worcester five metres from the Exeter line and with a man advantage the Warriors got their bonus-point try.
Lemi found space in the corner for his second score of the match and while Lamb missed the conversion and added a late penalty, Exeter held on for a 38-33 win.