Exeter Chiefs 19
Glasgow Warriors 17
DAVID BARNES @ Sandy Park
ALL defeats hurt, but some sting more than others, and this one will be really tough to take for Glasgow Warriors after Euan Ferrie’s injury-time try was chalked off by referee Pierre Brousset, who initially awarded the score then reviewed the TMO’s footage and decided that the flanker had let go of his bind at a scrum five metres from the Chiefs’ line and was therefore offside when he latched on to Ross Vintcent’s hashed clearance and crashed over.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for an injury-ravaged Warriors side featuring a handful of inexperienced youngsters, who took the lead on nine minutes and were still ahead in the 77th minute, having defended heroically for large chunks of the game and claimed two well-taken tries.
On the flip side, the overall performance will exorcise some of the demons of Warriors’ last two trips to Devon – which they lost 52-17 two years ago and 42-0 just over three years ago – and they can also take consolation from a losing bonus-point plus the knowledge that their destiny in terms of qualification for the Champions Cup knock-out stages is still in their own hands. They play their final pool match against Toulon next Friday night.
Chiefs came into this contest off the back of a gruelling run of game, while Warriors were fresh from a rest week, and it showed in the early exchanges, with the visitors threatening on the left in the second minute when Josh McKay chased down Kyle Rowe‘s neat grubber, only for the final bounce to float over the Kiwi full-back’s head.
The visitors then had a golden opportunity to deploy their vaunted line-out drive, and Gregor Hiddleston thought he had marked his debut with a try when he broke from the back and flopped over, only to realise that the whistle had sounded for an obstruction
Warriors kept the pressure on and took the lead immediately after Chiefs lost Greg Fisilau to the sin-bin for head-on-head contact with Duncan Weir, with George Horne slotting the penalty.
Despite being a man down, Chiefs began to work their way into the game, and Tommy Wyatt asked questions with a winding run from the back before Huw Jones did well to get back and make the cover tackle. Tom Jordan, temporarily on the park while Weir was off for an HIA, also made a vital defensive intervention with a choke tackle on Joe Hawkins which earned a penalty and the chance to clear the danger.
Warriors then snatched the first try of the contest wen Ben Hammersley made a pig’s ear of tidying up Horne’s dink in behind, hacking the ball into Rowe’s hands, who had the pace to run it home from 30-yards, setting up an easy conversion for the recently returned Weir.
Warriors found themselves pinned back on their own line during the last five minutes of the first half. They defended stoically, but an ugly knock-on by Weir as he shaped to clear from a back-pedalling scrum handed Chiefs a chance to really turn the screw. Zander Fagerson was penalised for collapsing, Chiefs opted to scrum again, then there was an offside penalty, and eventually all that pressure told when Jacques Vermeulen muscled over from close range, with Henry Slade converting to make it a three-point game at the break. All the momentum was with the hosts.
After 10 minutes of arm-wrestling in midfield at the start of the second half, Warriors burst the game wide open again when Scott Cummings galloped out of his 22. Horne was inevitably in his slip-stream to carry one the move, and he fed McKay with a looping pass, before Sione Tuipulotu stepped inside the final defender and darted home.
That roused Exeter roused to launch a 10 minute onslaught, and as was the case at the end of the first half, all those one-out surges eventually created a small gap in Warriors dogged defensive line which replacement home hooker Dan Frost burst through to score to make 12-17.
Chiefs really should have tied the scores a few minutes later when second-row Lewis Pearson showcased the footballing skills of a stand-off when executing an inch-perfect cross-kick to send Zack Wimbush over on the left, but the TMO called it back for a marginal knock-on earlier in the move. It was another one of those moments when you can’t help but think that if the referee didn’t spot it straight away then why trawl back through the footage looking for a reason to neutralise a wonderful passage of play.
Warriors were forced to soak up another spell of unrelenting pressure during the final 10 minutes, and something had to give. When the score came, it was a thing of simple beauty, with a powerful scrum and slick hands sending Wimbush over.
Slade’s nerveless touchline conversion edged Chiefs into a two point lead with just two minutes left to play, but Warriors weren’t ready to raise the white flag yet, winning a turnover from the restart and spreading possession leftward to release Jordan, who surged into the Chief’s 22, exchanged passes with Rowe, then looked to offload to McKay, but the ball hit the deck and a knock-on was called just as McDowall streaked over the line.
All Chiefs needed to do was secure the scrum and get the ball into touch, but it turned into a mess with the scrum-halves wrestling each other as Ross Vintcent scrambled at the base then sclaffed his kick. Ferrie, just off the bench for his first appearance of the season, snatched possession then barged over the line for what appeared to be the game-clinching try.
Chiefs players and supporters howled in indignation, and Brousset engaged with the TMO, before eventually deciding that Ferrie had become detached from the scrum and was therefore in an offside position when he took possession of the ball.
The change of decision was greeted by raucous celebration from all connected with Chiefs, which highlighted how deep they’d had to dig for this win.
Exeter Chiefs: T Wyatt (Z Wimbush. 60); I Feyi-Waboso, H Slade, R O’Loughlin (J Hawkins 9), B Hammersley; H Skinner, T Cairns (S Townsend 56); A Hepburn (N Abuladzeb 48), J Yandle (D Frost 48), E Painter, (J Iosefa-Scott 48), R Tuima, L Pearson, E Roots, J Vermeulen, G Fisilau (R Vintcent 56).
Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; H Jones, S Tuipulotu, S McDowall, K Rowe; D Weir (T Jordan 9-22, 72), G Horne; O Kebble (J Bhatti 53), G Hiddleston (G Turner 53), Z Fagerson, S Cummings, A Samuel (R Gray 53), A Miller (E Ferrie 78), M Fagerson, H Venter.
Referee: Pierre Brousset
Exeter Chiefs: Tries: Vermeulen, Frost Wimbush; Con: Slade 2.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Rowe, Tuipulotu; Con: Weir 2; Pen: Horne.
Scoring sequence: 0-3; 0-8; 0-10; 5-10; 7-10 (h-t) 7-15; 7-17; 12-17; 17-17; 19-17.
Yellow card –
Exeter Chiefs: Fisilau (9 mins)