Steenson puts Exeter in the promised land

Bristol 10 Exeter 29 (Exeter win 38-16 on aggregate)
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The Independent Online

The Guinness Premiership fraternity have long been in need of genuine geographical spread, and now they have it. Exeter tied up promotion with a comprehensive second-leg victory over Bristol last night, to go with the narrow one they had chiselled out seven days previously, and will be the first team from the far south-west of the country to mix it with the big boys. Assuming the likes of Leicester manage to find their way to Devon next season, they will receive a seriously rustic welcome, full of blood, sweat and muscle.

Bristol's forwards had suffered more than their fair share of indignities in the first leg at Sandy Park and as the Exeter pack set about them once again from the kick-off, driving their line-outs and clattering into the contact areas like men possessed, the home side were in déjà vu land within minutes. Twice, they infringed at driving mauls close to their line; twice, the goal-kicker Gareth Steenson punished them. Within 13 minutes, the visitors were nine ahead on aggregate.

Error-ridden and nerve-ravaged, Bristol finally settled towards the end of the opening quarter when Adrian Jarvis broke a couple of mistimed tackles and fed Luke Arscott for the first try of a tie now almost 100 minutes old. But their discipline was so poor that they immediately conceded six more penalty points to Steenson, who rubbed it in with a drop goal 10 minutes before the break. Whatever hill Bristol left themselves to climb in the second half, it was a whole lot steeper than the average Mendip.

They created a little more after the break, largely through the driving play of their No 8 James Phillips, but they lost the territorial kicking dual by a distance. Even when Jarvis gave them a glimmer of a chance with a penalty on 54 minutes – they were now just eight points adrift in real terms – they did not look like making it count. Steenson hurt them again and again with three-pointers and Exeter wrapped it up with a mauler's try for the hooker Simon Alcott.

Bristol Try: L Arscott; Conversion: T Arscott; Penalty: Jarvis. Exeter Try: Alcott; Penalties: Steenson 6; Drop goals: Steenson 2.

Bristol L Arscott; L Robinson, L Eves (S Giddens, 67), A Fatialofa (J Adams, 40+3), T Arscott (Adams, 32-40+3); A Jarvis, J Spice (capt, S Alford, 42-49 and 74); M Irish (M Vunipola, 60), D Blaney, W Thompson, D Montagu (D Barry, 67), R Winters, I Grieve, R Pennycook (J Merriman, 67), J Phillips.

Exeter M Foster; M Jess, N Sestaret, P Dollman, P McKenzie; G Steenson, H Thomas; B Sturgess, N Clark (S Alcott, 70), H Tui, T Hayes (capt), J Hanks (D Gannon, 66), C Slade (T Johnson, 57), J Scaysbrook, R Baxter.

Referee A Small (London).

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