Leicester too good for Exeter

Date published: March 6 2016

Leicester continued with their fine recent form as they secured a hard-fought 31-27 victory over Exeter at Welford Road on Sunday.

It proved to be a cagey opening to the game with a penalty apiece from Freddie Burns and Gareth Steenson the only scores in the first 30 minutes. However, a penalty try, which also yielded a yellow card for Exeter lock Geoff Parling, allowed the hosts to go into the break with a comfortable 11-point buffer. 

Manu Tuilagi, continuing his return after a lengthy absence, also went over before Steenson reduced the arrears from the tee at half-time. 

Leicester touched down twice more in the second period via Peter Betham and Adam Thompstone, but Exeter remained in the contest through Dave Lewis and Ian Whitten tries. 

Exeter did not do enough in the closing stages to put themselves in a position to claim the win, but they managed to garner a losing bonus-point when Kai Horstmann barged over. 

The Tigers have struggled over recent weeks but returned to form last Sunday after a 47-20 thrashing of basement dwellers London Irish. Against a Chiefs side that were looking to move to the top of the table, they controlled possession in the opening stages. 

Burns was kicking out of hand with pinpoint accuracy and that was putting pressure on Rob Baxter's men. To the visitors' credit, they initially defended resiliently with the Leicester stand-off's three-pointer the only score in the first 15 minutes. 

Exeter immediately responded through Steenson before the crucial moment in the match occurred on the half-hour. Richard Cockerill's team had a drive surging towards the line when Parling came in from the side to prevent Harry Thacker from scoring. 

After consultation with the Television Match Official, referee Matt Carley decided to award a penalty try and sin-bin the lock. It was a decision which was to cost the West Country outfit further as the Tigers attacked out wide. Good hands from Betham, Mike Fitzgerald and Marcos Ayerza then opened the space for Tuilagi and the centre crossed the whitewash unopposed. 

The Chiefs narrowed the deficit on the stroke of half-time through Steenson and Baxter's men dominated the early stages of the second period. However, the hosts defended superbly and, following a turnover, Betham sprinted clear down the left touchline. 

Exeter were rattled and the Midlanders soon had the bonus-point sealed as a well-worked set-piece move resulted in Thompstone powering over. A victory for Cockerill's side seemed assured but the visitors are well known for their spirit and they duly fought back. 

They pressured the opposition line through the maul and, after Dom Barrow had been yellow carded, Lewis touched down. Momentum was now with the Chiefs and a brilliant attack, which went through several pairs of hand, resulted in Whitten scampering over. 

Exeter sensed an opportunity to produce a remarkable comeback but Matt Jess' sin-binning for taking out Burns in the air effectively ended their chances. 

Nevertheless, the away team did manage a losing bonus-point in the final minute when Horstmann burrowed his way across the whitewash.

The scorers:

For Leicester:
Penalty Try, Tuilagi, Betham, Thompstone
Cons: Burns 4
Pen: Burns
Yellow Card: Barrow

For Exeter:
Lewis, Whitten, Horstmann
Cons: Steenson 3
Pens: Steenson 2
Yellow Cards: Parling, Jess

Leicester: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 Ed Slater (c), 7 Lachlan McCaffrey, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Dom Barrow, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Mike Williams, 21 George Tresidder, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Telusa Veainu

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Don Armand, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Moray Low
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Max Bodilly

Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson, Paul Dix
TMO: Graham Hughes