Tries for Maitland and Lamont ensured that the large home support for the Chiefs were left thoroughly disappointed after another insipid performance resulted in a 15-10 defeat to Glasgow Warriors.
Though the Chiefs came into the game knowing that there was little that could be taken out of the Heineken Cup for them, they seemed to lack the fighting qualities that had delivered them success early in the season. This meant that Glasgow largely got away with playing some mediocre rugby themselves, and this win gives them an outside chance of qualifying for the Amlin.
On a relatively mild January afternoon, the game began brightly for the Chiefs. Uni boy Henry Sade got some early points on the board with a well-taken penalty, and the Chiefs forwards were dominant in the breakdown. Slade also impressed in defence, providing a good clearance to spoil what could have been an early chance for Glasgow.
In what would become a feature of the match, the Chiefs’ front row of Rimmer, Cowan-Dickie and Brown had the better of their more celebrated Glasgow counterparts. The early dominance of the home team was rewarded in the sixteenth minute through a Vainikolo try, as the Tongan winger bundled his way around the edge of the breakdown for a well-worked finish. Slade added a further two points, giving Exeter a 10-0 lead.
However, it was not to last, and these would be the last points of the game for Exeter. Slade’s next kick off was a poor one, gifting Glasgow the possession, and with the help of some poor Chiefs’ defence, a good try for winger Maitland. Exeter were not helped by the fact that an overlap had been created whilst two of their players received treatment, but they missed several tackles on a pacey Glasgow backline. Nevertheless, Maitland took his chance well, showing his international class as a finisher. Though Hogg failed to convert, this was the launchpad for Glasgow’s fight back.
Thereafter followed a period of scrappy play from both sides, with good breaks from both Chiefs and Glasgow backs, but poor handling ensuring that neither team could get any momentum. However, Glasgow looked the better side, and were rewarded in the thirty-fifth minute with a try for Scottish international Sean Lamont. It came after a good period of build up play – with Hogg and Lamont linking well – and was finished well in the corner by the winger. This time Hogg’s goal-kicking radar was on target, ensuring that the away team entered half time with a two point lead.
The second half of the match should have been an exciting climax to a close fought game, but it did not deliver. Exeter were scrappy from the start, gifting Hogg a penalty ten minutes in. He took his chance well, giving Glasgow a five point buffer they would retain for the rest of the match.
By this stage the home crowd were beginning to realise that their team were not on top form. Error after error ensured that each rendition of the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ – normally such an atmospheric chant – became less and less convincing, and was eventually replaced by the grumbling of frustrated supporters.
Exeter’s poor handling meant that they simply could not get together the phases required for a meaningful attack. Indeed the only part of their game that was on form was their scrummaging, in which they maintained dominance over Glasgow throughout the game.
In the eightieth minute, it looked as if a last ditch winner for Exeter might have been on the cards. Despite Glasgow turning over a line-out deep in their twenty-two, replacement scrum half Nikola Matawalu – needing only to tap the ball into touch to seal the victory – inexplicably skied his kick, giving possession back to Exeter. However, in a fitting end to a scrappy game, a knock on fluffed Exeter’s chance.
The Chiefs should now forget their Cup dreams and concentrate on correcting their recent poor form in the Premiership. If they continue to perform at home like they did on Saturday, they could have a tricky few months ahead.
Ben Pullan, Sports Teambookmark me