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Match Reaction: Exeter Chiefs 14-9 Bristol Bears

Match Reaction: Exeter Chiefs 14-9 Bristol Bears

Exeter Chiefs returned to the top of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby table but they were made to work hard by Bristol Bears in a low-scoring West Country derby.

Santiago Cordero ran in for a simple score on the stroke of half-time and Sean Lonsdale burrowed over for his first try in the competition with 15 minutes remaining in a 14-9 triumph at Sandy Park.

All the Bears could muster in response was three Ian Madigan penalties – which briefly put them in the lead midway through the second half – but the hosts held on to extend their winning streak over Bristol to seven games in all competitions.

Man of the Match

On a day in which neither back division particularly covered themselves in glory, the forwards and defences came to the fore.

Exeter lock Jonny Hill impressed in the heart of the pack – making 12 bruising carries, including an impressive tote in the build-up to the Santiago Cordero try, and completing eight tackles without missing one.

The towering second row was also a safe pair of hands in the lineout and brought in Luke Cowan-Dickie’s throw which set up Sean Lonsdale’s winning score.

Moment of the Match

It has to be young Exeter flanker Sean Lonsdale crossing for his first Gallagher Premiership Rugby try, which also proved to be the winning points, on 66 minutes.

The score itself was nothing special but it’s significance was, as it sent Chiefs back to the summit and gave them bragging rights over their rivals for the rest of the season.

Hill ensured Exeter secured their attacking lineout, the driving maul got them up to the chalk and after a number of phases, Lonsdale burrowed over for close-range. You never forget your first!

Try of the Match

Santiago Cordero’s try on the stroke of the half-time were the points that Exeter had been searching for and sent them into the dressing room with a morale-boosting lead.

The fleet-footed winger beats defenders for fun but this score required minimal effort on his part as the Chiefs pack battered away at the Bristol line.

Eventually they spread the ball wide, Henry Slade produced a miss pass to Cordero on the right and the Argentine flyer sauntered over the whitewash.

What They Said?

Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter:

“We a bit disappointed with some of the execution, as I’m sure Bristol will be, but you only have to look at the Premiership to see how competitive it is and how all the teams can beat each other.

“So, any win in the Premiership at the moment – against anybody – is a good win. A few of our guys need to get their head round that because some of them probably get caught up in the notion that if you had some success over a couple of seasons then victory should just come.

“That doesn’t happen. The league is very competitive and Bristol are playing really well at the moment – they’ve got a lot of confidence.

“I’m pleased we got a win here – every win is a precious thing and you have to work hard for it. It shouldn’t be a shock if a game is close after 60 minutes.

“There were too many things for me to say we don’t have anything to work on but every team will have things to work on.”

Bristol coach Pat Lam:

“We had moments in the game at 9-7 to win it, but we lost them. We had a lineout off a penalty which we lost, which is disappointing, and we had a scrum overturned.

“We came up a little bit short but I’m absolutely proud of the guys – as long as we bring the right mentality and physicality, then we’ve got a chance.

“It was always going to take a big effort to win here but to run them close and have a chance to win the game with a minute to go was exceptional.

“We know there were moments we didn’t execute as well as we should have but I can’t fault the effort and the teamwork.

“We had a chance to win the game and that’s what frustrates us most. The big thing for us is to take those learnings.

“It’s a gutted changing room but every moment is a growth moment for the Bears. This will be huge in our development. We’re happy with the effort but make no mistake, we’re not happy to lose the game.”

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