Rich Lane’s hat-trick for Bristol Bears proved to be in vain as Exeter Chiefs claimed a 29-20 victory in the Premiership.
Lane benefited from the pinpoint kicking of Wales fly-half Callum Sheedy, who set up his three tries.
Two of them were from expertly weighted cross-field efforts while the other was a grubber through, but it was not enough to give them the win.
Exeter, who have already hammered last season’s finalists Saracens and Sale Sharks at home so far this season, once again scored four tries at Sandy Park to seal a bonus-point win.
Rusi Tuima, Ehren Painter, Tom Wyatt and Josh Iosefa-Scott all touched down, with Henry Slade adding three conversions and a penalty, to move them to the top of the Premiership.
It took Exeter less than three minutes to open the scoring when Tuima finished off a succession of forward drives.
Sheedy then put the Bears on the scoreboard with a straightforward penalty before the outside-half was instrumental in the creation of his side’s first try as his well-judged grubber through gave Lane acres of space to touch the ball down.
A basic error from young Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso was responsible for the visitors’ second try.
A speculative kick ahead from Gabriel Ibitoye was carelessly knocked into touch by Feyi-Waboso and, from the resulting line-out in the Exeter 22, Bristol took full advantage, with a cross-field kick from Sheedy seeing Lane brush off a weak tackle from Wyatt for his second.
Exeter declined two kickable penalties in favour of more attacking options and the decision paid dividends when prop Painter crashed over from close range.
A high hit by Lewis Pearson on Sheedy gave the Welshman the chance to put his side back in front, but his 45-metre penalty fell short.
In a pre-planned move, Bristol changed the whole of their front-row, with first choices Jake Woolmore, Harry Thacker and Max Lahiff all introduced, despite the game being less than 30 minutes old.
The decision did not have the desired effect. Within six minutes Thacker was yellow carded for repeated team offences as the visitors’ pack struggled to contain the power of the opposing eight and they were fortunate to be only 14-13 adrift at the interval.
Within two minutes of the restart, the Chiefs took advantage of Thacker’s absence to score a third try from Wyatt, but the visitors responded with another cross-field kick from Sheedy, the best of the lot, and Lane raced on to the ball to complete his hat-trick.
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Thacker returned before it was Exeter’s turn to change their front-row and they were soon in action as the Chiefs conjured up a number of drives close to Bristol’s line.
This time the visitors held out and so it was still a one-point game at the end of the third quarter.
However, the home side always had the edge up front and it came as no surprise when Iosefa-Scott finished off yet another forward drive for the bonus-point try.
Slade missed the conversion, but with six minutes remaining he fired over a penalty to seal victory.
Bristol missed out on a bonus point as James Williams missed a sitter of a penalty in the final minute.