Leicester send message to Premiership with Exeter win

Planet Rugby

Leicester Tigers claimed their first Premiership win over Exeter Chiefs for four years as they prevailed 34-19 at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday.

The result sees Ellis Genge’s reign as club captain begin on a positive note as Freddie Steward, Harry Potter and Matt Scott scored tries before Nic Dolly added a brace.

Leicester were comfortable winners as Exeter found themselves toppled on the opening weekend of the campaign for the first time since 2017 with Dolly’s first touchdown in the 60th minute taking the game beyond their reach.

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The Tigers showed greater enterprise throughout and possessed more strings to their bow than an underpowered Exeter, whose pack struggled to convert opportunities close to the line.

George Ford efficiently directed operations while full-back Steward and wing Nemani Nadolo were a handful all afternoon, but Leicester’s attacking flourishes were matched by the commitment in defence where Genge, George Martin and Dan Cole were prominent.

They led 20-5 at half-time and while Exeter briefly threatened a fightback in the third quarter, it never materialised on a disappointing afternoon for the two-time champions.

Leicester edged a cagey opening 10 minutes that was played in the middle of the pitch but they began to build a head of steam by making inroads close to both touchlines.

The attack continued with a sharp offload from Nadolo and a big carry by Genge, creating the space for Ford to send Steward through a narrow gap and over the line.

Exeter responded quickly with a maul that was finished by Don Armand but the Tigers were playing all the rugby and they were rewarded with their second try in the 23rd minute.

Nadolo was the architect as he gathered a flat pass from a lineout and surged through the Chiefs’ defence, breaking two more tackles before he was eventually hauled down two metres short of the line.

Leicester won quick ball that was used expertly by Ben Youngs, who spotted the overlap and fired a long pass to Potter for a simple run-in.

Once again Exeter used their pack to claw their way back into a strong position but after many phases and two penalties, they left the 22 with nothing after a try for Jack Innard was ruled out for continuing after he was tackled.

The Tigers were proving far more ruthless as on their next offensive they engineered a third try assisted by a kind bounce of Steward’s kick that wrong-footed the visiting defence and allowed Scott to score from short range.

Steve Borthwick’s men were proving every bit as determined in defence when shortly after half-time they kept Exeter out once more with Nadolo’s try-saving tackle on Henry Slade the most eye-catching moment.

Jack Nowell could have gone himself and scored rather than finding Slade, but the England wing was becoming increasingly influential.

Typically, however, it was the route one approach that delivered Exeter’s next try as Tigers lock Harry Wells was judged to have collapsed their short-range forward drive, conceding a penalty try and also being sent to the sin-bin.

Leicester rose magnificently to the danger of being a man down when Dolly completed a driving maul to clinch the bonus point and in the 68th minute the hooker added his second in similar fashion.

The game was won but Exeter had the final say in stoppage time when Sam Hidalgo-Clyne slipped over.

Northampton claim bonus-point win over Gloucester

Northampton Saints got their Premiership season off to a winning start over an injury-ravaged Gloucester in a lively game at Franklin’s Gardens.

Depleted Gloucester contributed fully to the entertainment but two yellow cards and a high penalty count against them proved costly.

Saints took advantage to score four tries from George Furbank, Nick Auterac, Tom Wood and James Grayson, with the latter adding two penalties and three conversions.

Ollie Thorley, Jordy Reid and Jonny May scored Gloucester’s tries, with Lloyd Evans kicking a penalty and a conversion.

Worcester Warriors get better of London Irish

England international Willi Heinz scored a try on his Premiership debut for Worcester Warriors as they beat London Irish 36-24 at Sixways.

The former Gloucester number nine is among more than a dozen newcomers to Worcester’s squad this season.

And he wasted little time making an impact, claiming his side’s second touchdown and then creating their bonus-point try for number eight Matt Kvesic as Worcester recorded a first on-pitch Premiership win since beating Irish in November last year.

All of the Warriors’ other league victories last term were coronavirus-related forfeits and head coach Jonathan Thomas could not have asked for a better opening-weekend display.

Flanker Sam Lewis, full-back Melani Nanai and wing Perry Humphreys also crossed for Worcester, with Wales international fly-half Owen Williams kicking four conversions and a penalty.

Irish replied through tries for wing Ollie Hassell-Collins, number eight Albert Tuisue and a double by substitute prop Ollie Hoskins, but Paddy Jackson had an off-day from the goal-kicking tee, landing two conversions, and they never seriously threatened to halt Worcester’s momentum.

Sale hold off Bath fightback to claim win

In the late game, Orlando Bailey missed the chance to be the hero for Bath as their comeback attempt away to Sale Sharks fell just short in their season opener, going down 20-19 at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Bailey replaced the returning Danny Cipriani early in the second half as Bath came from 17-0 down to lead, only for Kieran Wilkinson to put Sale back in front before a long-range miss from Bailey in the final play.

Sale’s tries both came in the first half as hooker Akker van der Merwe and wing Byron McGuigan went over, with fly-half Rob du Preez kicking two conversions and a penalty while Wilkinson also added three points.

Bath’s only crossing came from replacement prop Juan Schoeman on 54 minutes but they could not seal their impressive second-half recovery with a win.


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