Exeter Chiefs 31
Glasgow Warriors 18
PACK power and strength in depth made the difference for Exeter Chiefs as they blew Glasgow Warriors away in the third quarter of this match to claim their second bonus-point win from their second European Champions Cup outing of the season, to take a stranglehold of Pool 2.
This is a setback but not a disaster for the beaten side although their failure to pick up any bonus points either in last week’s home win over Sale Sharks or in this game at Sandy Park means that they are going to have to do it the hard way if they are to replicate last season’s achievement of making the knock-out stages. They picked up the final slot in the quarter-finals last year as the third best runner-up on 19 pool points – and they are now on four points with 20 points left to be claimed – so there is not much wriggle room left.
They were up against arguably the best team in England and we should be realistic about where the Warriors, with the squad they currently have, should expect to measure against such distinguished opposition. This result probably accurately reflects the true gulf in class.
Warriors took an early lead in some style on eight minutes when Tommy Seymour hit the line hard in midfield straight from quick scrum ball and bounced Tom O’Flaherty, before releasing Nick Grigg, who rode two and a half tackles on his way to touching down under the posts.
But the Chiefs soon got themselves into the game with a Joe Simmonds penalty after a collapsed scrum in front of the posts, and the hosts then cranked up the pressure to snatch the lead when second-row Jonny Hill rumbled over after a series of punishing close-range assaults from the mighty Exeter pack.
During the first half, the Warriors got some purchase at scrum time and Hastings squared it when Exeter loose-head Alec Hepburn was penalised for walking round. Then, when the same man was singled out for a faulty engagement, the visiting stand-off stepped forward again to nail three more points to give his side a narrow 10-13 lead at the turnaround.
But then the visitors failed to clear their lines from the restart and Jack Nowell took advantage by stepping inside Grigg a few phases later before sending his England team-mate Henry Slade in under the posts. It was the worst possible start to the second half for Dave Rennie’s men, and it set the tone for the remainder of the match.
The challenge facing the Warriors got even tougher when winger DTH van der Merwe picked up an injury in a collision with his old team-mate Stuart Hogg and had to be replaced. With opposite wing Ratu Tagive already having been replaced by Kyle Steyn, a reshuffle of the backline was required which saw Peter Horne coming on at stand-off, Hastings switching to full-back and Seymour taking to the wing.
Exeter moved further ahead when their forward power splintered the Warriors maul defence and Sam Simmonds burst through the gap like a runaway train to score his team’s third try, and the bonus point was wrapped up just shy of the hour mark when O’Flaherty chased down Slade’s excellently weighted grubber-kick into the corner.
The game fizzled out a bit during the final quarter, with the Chiefs maintaining a strangle-hold of both possession and territory, but under no pressure to really press home their advantage, although Joe Simmonds did edge the hosts further ahead with a straightforward penalty following Kiran McDonald’s yellow-carding – just a few minutes after replacing captain Ryan Wilson – for a deliberate obstruction.
Warriors rallied briefly as the game moved into the final 10 minutes, but the Chiefs were determined no to concede anything … except penalties if it kept their line intact. Sam Simmonds was sent to the bin for killing the ball, and eventually Warriors found a way through with just two minutes left on the clock when Seymour went close on the right before play was transferred across the park for replacement hooker George Turner to go over unchallenged.
Warriors’ outside chance of salvaging a losing bonus point evaporated when Hastings’ conversion hit the post.
Hogg’s reunion with his old Warriors team-mates was fairly low key. Twice in the opening 20 he ran kicks back, but he couldn’t quite escape Hastings on the first occasion and ended up offloading forward, and with the second one he was called back by referee Pascal Gauzere for an off-the-ball obstruction by Slade on Grigg. He had a couple of long, searching kicks, but generally had few opportunities to impose himself on the match.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 27)
Glasgow Warriors: T Seymour; R Tagive (K Steyn 30), N Grigg, S Johnson, D van der Merwe (P Horne 51); A Hastings, G Horne (A Price 57); O Kebble (A Allan 62), F Brown (G Turner 57), Z Fagerson (D Rae 65), R Harley, S Cummings, R Wilson (K McDonald 65), C Fusaro (T Gordon 62), M Fagerson.
Exeter Chiefs: S Hogg (S Hill 61); J Nowell, H Slade (G Steenson 68), I Whitten, T O’Flaherty; J Simmonds, N White (J Maunder 688); A Hepburn (B Moon 47), J Yeandle (L Cowan-Dickie 38), H Williams (M Street 64), D Dennis (J Kirsten 62), J Hill, D Ewers, J Vermeulen (D Armand 64), S Simmonds.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere
Exeter Chiefs: Tries: Hill, Slade, Simmonds, O’Flaherty; Cons: J Simmonds 4; Pen: J Simmonds.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Grigg, Turner; Con: Hastings; Pens: Hastings 2.
Scoring sequence (Exeter Chiefs first): 0-5; 0-7; 3-7; 8-7; 10-7; 10-10; 10-13 (h-t) 15-13; 17-13; 22-13; 24-13; 29-13; 31-13; 31-18.
Yellow cards –
Exeter Chiefs: S Simmonds