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Exeter grind out win over Glasgow in Champions Cup opener

Jonny Hill

Jonny Hill joined Exeter from Gloucester in 2015

Premiership champions Exeter ground out a winning start to their Champions Cup campaign and inflict a first defeat of the season on in-form Glasgow.

The visitors shot out to an early 10-0 lead through Tommy Seymour’s try and Finn Russell’s boot.

But the Chiefs reeled in Glasgow with close-range scores from Harry Williams and Jonny Hill to lead at half-time.

Lee Jones’ try reignited Warriors’ hopes but Sam Simmonds crossed late to deny them even a bonus point.

Slow-starting Chiefs wise up

Sam Simmonds scores for Exeter<!–

Simmonds has scored nine tries in his past 13 games for Exeter

Exeter had won only one opening match in four previous campaigns in Europe’s elite competition but director of rugby Rob Baxter’s warning about another slow start seemed not to be heeded by his players as Glasgow moved 10 points clear in the opening 12 minutes.

But, after Russell’s pinpoint crossfield kick had been claimed by Seymour over Phil Dollman for the opening score, the Chiefs wrestled their way back into control.

Williams and Hill were moved into position to burrow over as the hosts’ superior forward power told in the loose and the scrum.

Nic White’s fumbled attempt to field Russell’s grubber kick let in Jones and set nerves jangling in Sandy Park with Glasgow just two points behind at 17-15 with 35 minutes left.

But the hosts’ experience of progressing to the knock-out stages in 2015-16 and winning the Premiership title last season showed in the final quarter.

Exeter went back to their strengths and took control of the match by playing the percentages.

Instead of putting the Exeter line under siege, Glasgow found themselves penned back and starved of possession before Simmonds crossed to send them away pointless from the contest.

Glasgow up against it

Finn Russell<!–

Russell finished with a 67% success rate off the tee

Glasgow have won six from six in the Pro14 this season, but errors from Russell seriously hindered any hope of extending that run into continental competition.

The Scotland fly-half made mistakes with the ball in hand and off the boot as the dewy conditions conspired against him and Glasgow’s expansive gameplan.

New coach Dave Rennie has emphasised the importance of the final 20 minutes and while a strong finish helped them to victory away to the Cheetahs last time out, it seemed the trip to South Africa may have a physical impact late on.

In a pool completed by last year’s semi-finallists Leinster and big-spending French side Montpellier, they are already up against it.

Analysis

England’s Women’s World Cup-winning scrum-half Natasha Hunt on 5 live sports extra:

“You rely on your 10 so much and there is no-one in this Glasgow team to take the pressure on Finn Russell.

“If he has a better display today then it is a very different game.

“Exeter need to tighten up their line-out drive, which was stopped too easily, but they were really solid. I thought Henry Slade looked really comfortable in the 13 channel.”

Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; Turner, Slade, Whitten, Woodburn; Steenson, White; Moon, Yeandle (capt), Williams, Lees, Hill, Armand, Salvi, Simmonds.

Replacements: Taione, Rimmer, Francis, Atkins, Waldrom, Townsend, Gilbert-Hendrickson, Short.

Glasgow Warriors: Jackson; Seymour, Grigg, Horne, Jones; Russell, Price; Bhatti, Brown, Fagerson, Swinson, Gray, Wilson (capt), Gibbins, Ashe.

Replacements: Turner, Allan, Rae, Cummings, Harley, Pyrgos, Johnson, Matawalu.

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