Champions bring Exiles back down to earth Exeter Chiefs 37 London Irish 7
CHAMPIONS Exeter brought London Irish back down to earth with a dominant victory at Sandy Park.
The Exiles made a dream return to the Aviva Premiership on the opening day with victory over Harlequins at Twickenham, but they failed to recover from a slow start and came away from Exeter empty-handed.
Nick Kennedy’s men were
20-0 down at half-time in tricky conditions, but managed to hold out the champions for the majority of the second half before Alex Lewington’s score reduced the arrears to 23-7 with eight minutes to play.
But two late Chiefs tries put some gloss on the victory and quashed any hope of an Irish losing bonus point.
While Lewington accepts Exeter were the better side, he feels the margin of victory was flattering.
“They definitely showed why they’re champions,” he said.
“Especially in the first half we were under the pump a lot.
“They played the conditions perfectly and put a lot of pressure on us and we didn’t cope with it as well as we would’ve hoped.
“That’s a lesson we’ll learn from the game I suppose.
“The first 10 minutes after half-time were pretty promising from us but we just didn’t take our opportunities, which was the disappointing thing.
“I think we were forcing things a little bit in the last 10 minutes, trying to fight a way back to get something out of the game.
“I think the score-line maybe makes them look a bit better than it was, but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day.
“We made too many mistakes to end up with anything so they fully deserved the win and all the points.”
Kennedy made just one change to the side which won the Twickenham thriller, bringing in Italy international Luke McLean for his debut in place of the injured Fergus Mulchrone.
The hosts moved 8-0 in front with 12 minutes on the clock when Henry Slade crossed the whitewash after Gareth Steenson had kicked over an early penalty.
James Marshall was on the end of Irish’s first clear cut opportunity, only to be thwarted by a stern Exeter defence.
And Rob Baxter’s men pushed 20-0 ahead after referee Craig Maxwell-Keys awarded a penalty try following a driving lineout before flanker Don Armand slid over in the corner.
Steenson made it 23-0 just three minutes after the restart, but as the heavens opened and wind swirled around the Devon stadium, that is how the score remained until the 72nd minute.
Handling errors meant Exiles had not got off the mark sooner, but they did finally find a way through when Lewington collected from Brendan McKibbin to score.
But just as the visitors sensed an unlikely bonus point, McKibbin’s trick could not be repeated as his pass was picked off by Olly Woodburn inside his own 22 and he took off to sprint clear and kill the contest.
Armand added his second of the day in the closing seconds, but the win had already been sealed.
LONDON IRISH: Bell, Lewington, Hearn (Tikoirotuma 68), McLean, Ojo, Marshall, Steele (McKibbin 54), Hobbs-Awoyemi (Reid 52), Paice (c) (Porecki 52), Du Plessis (Franks 52), van der Merwe (McNally 68), De Chaves, Coman, Cowan, Treviranus (Gilsenan 56). Rep not used: Tonks.
Try: Lewington (72)
Con: Bell (72)
EXETER: Dollman, Nowell, Slade (Turner 64), Whitten (Bodilly 77), Woodburn, Steenson, White (Townsend 65), Moon (Rimmer 54), Yeandle (c) (Taione 64), Francis (Williams 54), Lees (Skinner 61), Hill, Dennis (Kvesic 64), Armand, Simmonds.
Tries: Slade (12), Penalty (26), Armand x2 (34,80), Woodburn (76)
Cons: Penalty (26), Steenson x2 (77,80) Pens: Steenson x2 (8,43)
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Ollie Hoskins scored the only try for London Irish A –see report on left