01222018

Exeter go 10 points clear with win over Leicester

Exeter's Henry Slade and Leicester's Sione Kalamafoni

Exeter have now won seven consecutive Premiership matches

Four second-half tries helped defending champions Exeter finish 2017 with a bonus-point victory over Leicester.

The Chiefs, who have now won their past seven games to go 10 points clear at the top of the table, had a slender 6-3 advantage after a cagey first half.

George Ford levelled the scores at 6-6 after the break, before Don Armand dotted down and Henry Slade added a second after an error by Jonny May.

Jonny Hill scored Exeter’s third and Jack Yeandle secured a late fourth.

While Exeter strengthened their position at the top, Leicester must reflect on a sixth straight defeat – their worst run since 1965.

The action of the second period was in stark contrast to a low-quality first half, which saw Ford’s first penalty for 10-time Premiership champions Tigers sandwiched by successful kicks at goal by Slade and Gareth Steenson.

Armand’s opening score from close range capped a patient passage of play by the hosts as they drove down the field following a spell of pressure from the visitors, who will start 2018 in the unfamiliar surroundings of ninth.

Slade’s second came after May misjudged the bounce of the ball, allowing the England centre a clear run to the line.

Hill went over in the corner soon afterwards giving Exeter just under 10 minutes to continue their record of securing a bonus point in every home league game this season.

And they managed it with the last play of the game when replacement Yeandle, on for injured hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, was driven over.

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter:

“We pushed things too much in the tough conditions and became messy as we were a little frustrated at not getting over the line.

“At half-time, we told the players to keep it simple but there’s always a wearing-down process against good sides.

“The big collisions and line speed died after we weathered early second-half pressure from them.

“We then produced a multi-faceted movement which ended with Dom Armand’s try, which gave us confidence and after that we looked like a side that was always going to win.

“It’s been a brilliant year for us and I don’t want it to end but we have to keep moving forward but not looking too far ahead so training on Tuesday for the Newcastle game is the next step.”

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Matt O’Connor:

“I was pleased with the first half as we kept a good side at bay while playing against a stiff breeze.

“However, we didn’t take our chances early in the second half as we didn’t execute well enough and you can’t afford to do that against Exeter.

“We lost a lot of the second-half collisions and they were very clinical and thoroughly deserved to win.”

Exeter: Turner; Nowell, Slade, Hill, Woodburn; Steenson (capt), Chudley; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Skinner, Hill, Ewers, Armand, Waldrom.

Replacements: Yeandle, Rimmer, Francis, Lees, Simmonds, White, Whitten, Short.

Leicester: May; Thompstone, Tuilagi, Toomua, Malouf; G Ford (capt), B Youngs; Mulipola, Polota-Nau, Cole, Fitzgerald, Kitchener, Williams, Hamilton, Kalamafoni.

Replacements: T Youngs, Traynor, Baumann, Wells, Mapapalangi, Harrison, J Ford, Tait.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (RFU).

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