Exeter Chiefs 27 London Irish 6 match report: Chiefs' iron grip squeezes the life out of Exiles

 

sandy park

This may not have been the rugby Exeter Chiefs wanted to play as sullen, rain-filled clouds cloaked the West Country, but it was certainly the result they wanted. A convincing victory, combined with the failure of Bath at the Twickenham Stoop, pushed them up to sixth place in the Aviva Premiership and into the Heineken Cup qualifying place they covet.

"You have to fight for it, but with four wins out of five, and that one loss by three points to Leicester, we feel we're playing pretty well," said Rob Baxter, the Exeter head coach. "For us the season is very much alive. It was a bit like getting through a cup semi-final today, with a cup final to come [against Wasps] next weekend."

They maintained an iron grip on any aspirations with which the Irish arrived. The Exiles established a potential try-scoring position once in each half but on both occasions, their driving maul was virtually stillborn, so well did Exeter defend. Otherwise there was none of the rhythm with which the Irish seek to play the game and they will be duly grateful if Northampton beat London Welsh today and make them safe.

The one positive element for Irish was the return, after four-and-a-half months away, of Alex Corbisiero. The England loosehead prop damaged a knee playing against South Africa last November, played against New Zealand the following weekend and then required an operation to clear out floating matter. He has not trained much with the Irish (whom he leaves for Northampton in the summer) but his 40 minutes yesterday will be scrutinised carefully.

"Corbs would be happy to get some game time but he still has an issue with the knee, it has to be managed," Brian Smith, the Exiles' director of rugby, said. Since Corbisiero was required earlier than expected when the hard-working Max Lahiff hurt his right foot, Smith will assess his front-row options this week and England, with a summer tour to Argentina in mind, will hope for good news.

Exeter, expecting the wind and rain to die during the afternoon, took advantage of the conditions in the first half but did not make as much use of them as they hoped. Four penalties by Gareth Steenson, against one from Tom Homer, left the visitors reasonably optimistic at the break, particularly since Exeter's handling let them down when in the opposition 22. But the Irish ploy of playing four locks in their pack came to grief against a strong scrummaging effort from Exeter. Steenson added another penalty soon after the interval and Exeter's forwards took control.

First they rolled a driving maul 20 metres before Steenson tapped on an overhead pass for Matt Jess to score in the corner. With time running out, Henry Slade, the young Exeter fly-half, nearly scored with his first touch but the try fell to Dave Ewers, the flanker squeezing his way over after a series of forward assaults on the Irish line. With Tom Johnson, the England flanker, on the verge of a return after recovering from knee-ligament damage, Exeter are poised for a grandstand finish to the season.

Exeter L Arscott; J Nowell, P Dollman (I Whitten, 71), J Shoemark, M Jess; G Steenson (H Slade, 76), H Thomas (W Chudley, 72); B Sturgess (C Rimmer, 58), J Yeandle (C Whitehead, 72), H Tui (C Mitchell, 63), D Mumm, D Welch (A Muldowney, 67), B White (D Ewers, 58), R Baxter (capt), J Scaysbrook.

London Irish T Homer (A Watson, 71); T Ojo (M Yarde, 52), G Armitage, S Geraghty, S Tagicakibau; I Humphreys, D Allinson; M Lahiff (A Corbisiero, 24; Halavatau, 65), D Paice (S Lawson, 52), L Halavatau (H Aulika, 41), G Skivington (capt), B Evans (K Low, 76), M Garvey, O Treviranus, J Sinclair (J Gibson, 63).

Referee: M Fox (Leicestershire).

Exeter

Tries: Jess, Ewers

Con: Slade

Pens: Steenson 5

London Irish

Pens: Homer, Humphreys

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory