Exeter still alive in Europe

Date published: January 15 2017

Exeter climbed to second place in Pool 5 of the Champions Cup after they beat Ulster 31-19 with a bonus-point at Sandy Park on Sunday.

In an entertaining first half, the sides went into the interval level at 12-12 thanks to two tries apiece. Sean Reidy touched down early on for the Irish province before Michele Campagnaro and Thomas Waldrom responded for the Chiefs.

Charles Piutau levelled matters just shy of the interval but successive scores by Waldrom and Campagnaro took the hosts 12 points clear in the second period.

Piutau's second try gave the visitors hope but a penalty try for Exeter just about kept the hosts in contention for a place in the knockout stages.

Les Kiss' men needed to win this game to keep their hopes of qualification alive and they started quickly. They held onto the ball well and, when Stuart McCloskey took advantage of Gareth Steenson's poor defence, Reidy was on hand to grasp the centre's offload and touch down.

To Exeter's credit, they responded well to that setback. With Clermont their final game in the group, Rob Baxter's team went into the encounter with little chance of qualifying, but they played with intensity and equalised via Campagnaro, who spotted a gap and surged to the line.

The hosts were now in control and they crossed the whitewash for the second time as Waldrom showed excellent strength off the base of a five-metre scrum to score.

From that point, the West Countrymen could have taken control, particularly with Ulster suffering a further injury after prop Ross Kane departed the field, but the Irish province were level by the break. It was another set-piece which did the damage when scrum-half Dave Shanahan spotted an opportunity on the blindside, passed to Piutau and the New Zealand international did the rest, stepping Jack Nowell and crossing the whitewash.

Exeter dominated the start of the second period and consistently pressurised the opposition 22. It eventually yielded a try as the Chiefs' gargantuan forwards battered away before that man Waldrom applied the finish from close range.

Campagnaro soon joined the number eight on a brace of tries when Phil Dollman's wonderful offload sent Nowell clear. The wing turned Piutau inside out, drew the final defender and gave the centre a run to the line.

Ulster responded and reduced the deficit through Piutau, who latched onto Paddy Jackson's well weighted chip kick, but the fly-half soon became the villain. With the Chiefs attacking and looking set to score, the fly-half reached out and deliberately knocked the ball on. Referee Romain Poite correctly awarded a penalty try and yellow carded Jackson, an incident which secured the win for the hosts.

The scorers:

For Exeter:
Tries: Campagnaro 2, Waldrom 2, Penalty Try
Cons: Steenson 3

For Ulster:
Tries: Reidy, Piutau 2
Cons: Jackson 2
Yellow Card: Jackson

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Don Armand, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Moray Low, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Ollie Devoto

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Andrew Trimble (c), 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Dave Shanahan, 8 Sean Reidy, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Pete Browne, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Ross Kane, 2 Rory Best, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Jonny Simpson, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Jacob Stockdale

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Pierre Brousset (France), Stéphane Boyer (France)
TMO: Arnaud Blondel (France)