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Home > News > Exeter Chiefs 29 - Nottingham 18
Your News Exeter Chiefs 29 - Nottingham 18

Exeter Chiefs produced one of their most clinical and professional performances so far this season to secure a bonus point win and to widen the gap between them and their opponents who started the game one place and one point behind Exeter in the league.

Both sides had previously only lost one game each the whole season - both to Leeds - and were both enjoying long undefeated runs. The Chiefs made seven changes to the starting line-up from last week at Manchester; Nottingham were also much changed from the previous week but showed only one change from the side that convincingly beat Bedford a fortnight ago.

Exeter would have anticipated a tough battle but would not have expected Nottingham to start like they did as, shortly after the kick-off, Dan Montagu and David Jackson ran through a number of home defenders to set up field position deep in Exeter territory. From here, Nottingham launched a series of attacks which Exeter struggled to deal with leading to a yellow card for Richie Pugh after six minutes. Exeter were hanging on, even at this early stage, but a great catch by Tom Hayes off a Nottingham drop-out set up Chris Budgen for a burst up the middle. As the ball was shipped along the line, Nic Sestaret charged through to be greeted by a high tackle which was duly penalised by the referee and then knocked over by Gareth Steenson for the opening points on 11 minutes.

Having been under the kosh for the best part of the opening period, Exeter went further ahead three minutes later. Exeter cleared from their own 22-metre line having won a penalty after stopping a Nottingham attack. From the lineout, Lewis Stevenson set off on a trademark bullocking run followed up by Clive Stuart-Smith, who jinked his way past a number of defenders. The ball was set back for a quick move along the line to Sean Marsden, who passed deftly to Stephen Ward to score in the corner. Steenson converted.

Ironically, having scored 10 points during Richie Pughs absence, the Chiefs immediately conceded when back to full strength. Straight from the restart, Exeter were penalised and fly-half Tim Taylor opened the visitors' account with three points. The game was never more than even at this stage with both sides having equal shares of territory and possession and Nottingham gave the scoreboard an equally even look on 29 minutes when winger Alex Dodge finished off a long flowing move to score in the corner after Stuart-Smith had just thwarted a certain try from Tim Molenaar. Taylor converted superbly into the wind from wide out.

Worse was to come for Exeter as the aftermath of the try saw both skipper Richie Baxter and Matt Cornwell leaving the field with injuries. Matt Jess came on for Cornwell with Sestaret taking up position in the centre. Exeter failed to reorganise quickly and, with Nottingham taking advantage and giving them the runaround, it was a huge relief for the Chiefs to go into half-time ahead after Sestaret went over for a try on the stroke of the break. The try had a similar background to the first after a penalty was kicked to the visitors' 22 followed by a quick lineout before the ball was moved back and forth up the line until Josh Drauniniu and then Steenson broke through the gain line to link up with Sestaret, who still had much to do before muscling over. There was just enough time for Nottingham to score again as Exeter gave away a penalty from the restart to leave the gap at an uncomfortable four points at the break.

The home fans were concerned that Exeter would be playing into what was now a strong wind for the second half and their nerves were jangling straight from the kick-off as Nottingham streaked into Exeter territory and looked certain to score until another last ditch tackle by Stuart-Smith prevented a certain try. Exeter struggled at first to come to terms with the wind and their opponents but once they broke out and over halfway they went on to play some of their best rugby of the season.

After 50 minute, Exeter set up a scrum on the Nottingham 10-metre line after an aggressive break by Sestaret. With all the backs lined up on the open side, the ball quickly found Jess who took it at pace and through the defence to offload it under serious pressure to Drauniniu who coasted through and under the posts. Steenson again converted.

Exeter took control of the game after this score and Nottingham had to resort to slowing Exeters ball down as they were prevented from getting any possession of their own. After persistent misdemeanours, Luke Sherriff was sent to the sin-bin as Exeter looked to turn the screw. On 73 minutes, following a short period of Nottingham pressure, Exeter launched an impressive multi-phase attack from their own lines that went the whole length of the pitch and undone the retreating defence so much that a bit of skilful interplay between Drauniniu and Neil Clark on the wing saw the hooker swallow dive over unopposed for a try. Steenson just failed with the extra points as the ball bounced off the post and the bar.

With the bonus point in the bag and the match won, Exeter were a little distracted as the game drew to a close by a series of substitutions and injuries and conceded a soft try right at the end as Gareth McComb gathered the ball from a knocked down clearance in the home 22. Exeter could not be downhearted by this as their performance and clever tactics in the second half brought them a well-deserved and crucial victory.


Exeter Chiefs Marsden; Sestaret, Ward, Cornwell (Jess 32mins), Drauniniu; Steenson (Gray 78mins), Stuart-Smith (Barrett 55mins); Budgen, Blythe (Clark 72mins), Andress (Parkes 65mins); Stevenson, Hayes (Slade 78mins); Johnson, Pugh, Baxter (capt) (Tuohy 32mins).

Nottingham Jackson; Savage (Cobden 23mins), Nirmalendran, Molenaar (capt) (McComb 78mins), Dodge (Thompson 70mins); Taylor, Usaaz (Pilgrim 65mins); Parr, Duffey, Hall (Harris 34mins); Morley, Rouse; Hemmingway, Sherriff, Montagu.


Exeter Chiefs Tries: Ward, Sestaret, Drauniniu, Clark; Cons: Steenson (3); Pens: Steenson. .

Nottingham Tries: Dodge, McComb; Cons: Taylor; Pens: Taylor (2).

Yellow cards:

Exeter Chiefs Pugh (6mins).

Nottingham Sherriff (63mins).



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