Exeter Chiefs 26(12)
Leicester Tigers 13(6)
Exeter Chiefs began the restart with a controlled victory against a competitive Leicester at an empty Sandy Park.
In a match where both sides had plenty of chances, the hosts got the job done against a fighting Tigers side on Jonny Gray’s debut for the hosts.
The second rower put in a 67 minute shift and played a key role at the breakdown for the Chiefs.
Fellow Scot Stuart Hogg’s score was complimented by tries from Charlie Ewers and Lucan Cowan-Dickie as Rob Baxter’s side got the perfect start to the restart.
Both sides also traded penalty tries in a manic five minute period near the hour mark, before a scoreless last quarter.
Exeter get the job done
The visitors had taken a well deserved 6-0 lead 0n 17 minutes, as they attempted to bring the game to last year’s Premiership champions.
George Ford was impressive throughout and followed a penalty kick with a neat drop goal after his side was unable to find a hole in a well organised Chiefs defence.
The ever present Ewers replied on 26 minutes though, the Exeter flanker finishing from close range after Cowan-Dickie was halted just short of the line.
Joe Simmonds missed the tough conversion, but the hosts took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Hogg did well to complete a smooth running move.
Simmonds supplied a perfect ball for his classy back line, the ball finding a speedy Olly Woodburn who then shipped it to the Scottish flyer to finish in the corner.
And this time Simmonds found the posts from an equally tough angle, giving his side a 12-6 lead at the break.
The Chiefs then had the perfect start to the second-half when Cowan-Dickie crashed over, the hooker catching Tigers’ defence off guard with a tap and go.
Simmonds’ conversion provided his side with a 13 point lead and Leicester’s misery looked to have been compounded when the hosts extended their lead with a penalty try.
Tigers flanker, Jordan Taufua was sent to the bin with his team unable to legally prevent an Exeter maul from crashing over the line on 53 minutes.
However, the visitors were quick to reply with their own penalty try under similar circumstances, both sides using the lineout as an effective platform throughout this game.
Jonny Hill’s yellow card also meant both sides were down to 14 men.
Tigers were unable to find the Exeter line again though and the hosts held their 13 point lead until the final whistle.
Sandy Park was always going to be a tough first assignment for Steve Borthwick as head coach of a team currently languishing in ninth, only above a Saracens side relegated by default.
Leicester did show plenty of promise, despite a high penalty count proving to be detrimental while there is a case for keeping the ball in hand more, despite the combined kicking experience of Ford and Ben Youngs.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs international contingent were impressive as always, Henry Slade likely impressing the attending Eddie Jones after missing out on the Six Nations through injury.
Exeter: Hogg, O’Flaherty, Slade, Devoto, Woodburn, Simmonds, Maunder; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Gray, Hill, Ewers, Kirsten, Simmonds
Replacements: Yeandle, Moon, Francis, Skinner, Armand, Hidalgo-Clyne, Steenson, Whitten
Sin Bin: Jonny Hill
Leicester: Warth, Williams, Toute, Scott, Olowofela, Ford, Youngs; Genge, Youngs(c), Cole, Lavanini, Green, Wells, Reffell, Taufua
Replacements: Kerr, Leatigaga, Heyes, Liedenberg, Wallace, Smith, White, Henry
Sin Bin: Jordan Taufua