Sports Team reporter Emmott Leigh was at Sandy Park yesterday to see Exeter Chiefs clinch a less than convincing victory against Welsh side Ospreys.
A poor display of technical ability and discipline was not enough to prevent the Chiefs from recording a second victory over Welsh opposition in as many weeks, clinching a 36-22 win in a high-scoring LV= Cup match.
As Chairman Tony Rowe said, Exeter were revelling in the glory of their previous ‘excellent and hard-fought victory’ over the Cardiff Blues in the Heineken Cup, where even the likes of Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert were unable to stop them from achieving a 13-19 upset.
However, they were still equally guilty as Ospreys for the woeful series of knock-ons and ill-adjudged kicks which accompanied the start of this match. Beginning with the very first kick (an Ospreys slice which ballooned straight into touch), neither side were able to launch a sustained assault on the other as the penalties mounted. The first side to break through the barrier was in fact Ospreys, when Dafydd Howells capitalised on the yardage gained from a driving maul to ease over the line.
After the sloppy conversion attempt missed by several feet, the Exeter side found another gear and set up their own drive for Cowan-Dickie to ground the ball from the back of the pack, although there was a possible case for obstruction as the backs cut through the opposing line.
No matter; such controversy was instantly forgotten when the Chiefs decided to hand a try back to the grateful Welshmen in comical fashion. An inconsequential grubber kick was hopelessly misjudged and snatched by the grateful Morgen Allen to score.
Following a routine penalty in the Chiefs’ favour, the half-time whistle was blown and Exeter were trailing 8-10. They had been more dominant in the scrum, and marginally better towards the end of the half with their hands despite the selection of some inexperienced academy players, but guilty of small errors when it counted most.
Perhaps it was not surprising then that the home portion of the 8,760 fans filling the stadium roared as one in encouragement of their promising side as the second forty minutes began. They were soon rewarded as a brace of converted tries sent the scoreboard rattling along to 22-10, James Scaybrook charging through a trio of defenders to barge over and Cowan-Dickie grabbing a second.
Surprisingly, their efforts were immediately equalled by the rallying Ospreys, who secured one dazzlingly eloquent sequence of offloads to score through Jenkins before Grabham burrowed over as well.
At this point, the Welsh side seemed to tire. As they saw less and less possession, the Chiefs grew more and more confident and James Phillips soon restored their lead with a try. By the time flanker Don Armand had shuffled over the tryline, the result was beyond doubt.
Another victory for a weakened Chiefs team leaves them in contention to progress to the semi-finals. However, even if it might be ‘fantastic’ for Rowe to see Tom Johnson and Jack Nowell in the England squad, you feel that they were missed.bookmark me