Cham­pi­ons bring Ex­iles back down to earth Ex­eter Chiefs 37 Lon­don Ir­ish 7

The Wokingham Paper - - RUGBY -

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

At­ten­dance: 8,536

Ol­lie Hoskins scored the only try for Lon­don Ir­ish A –see re­port on left

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