Twickenham may have been the place to be on Saturday as England performed superbly against South Africa, yet on Sunday there was no better location that Sandy Park as the Exeter Chiefs dominated a weak Cardiff Blues side in a shootout in the wild, wild West Country.
Jarrod Evans got the match underway shortly after 3pm, yet Exeter quickly gave the ball away, conceding an early penalty near their own try line. Evans easily slotted it between the posts, giving the visitors a three point advantage.
Another minute later, and indiscipline again hurt the Chiefs, after conceding another penalty, the Blues managed to hold the ensuing lineout and James Sheekey broke away from the defence to pick up the first try of the afternoon. Evans cooly took the kick, and suddenly the hosts were trailing by ten.
It wouldn’t take long for a response, though. Six minutes in, a decent maul helped to drive the Chiefs into Blues territory seriously for the first time. Shortly after, Shaun Malton managed to muscle his way over the line and claim five points for the home side. Joe Simmonds succeeded on the conversion, bringing the score to 7-10.
Carrying on the theme of a wild start, the Chiefs continued to pepper the Blues’ defence. It finally paid dividends when, in the 15th minute, they were awarded a penalty try off of a maul in the corner, with Kirby Myhill being sent to the sin bin. Again, Simmonds was perfect from the tee, and now the hosts held a slim advantage of their own.
The Chiefs quickly took advantage of their extra man, breaking down the left wing before Michele Campagnaro finally broke over the try line to extend the lead even further. The kick from Simmonds found its way through the posts, and suddenly the Chiefs were up on the back of three tries in quick succession.
From that point on, the Blues could muster very little, and the Chiefs continued to launch wave after wave of attack. As the pressure built, it appeared inevitable that eventually the Chiefs would add to their lead further. Eventually, a smart chip found the hands of Damian Welch in the corner, who powered past the nearest defender to add another five points to the home tally. The angle of the kick was a little too much for Simmonds, and the score sat at 26-10.
The Blues began fighting their way back into the game, but it was never very convincing. At no stage did it seriously look as though the visitors would claw their way back onto the scoreboard, and as the Chiefs had a try ruled out by the TMO, it became clear that there was only one side that would leave with the win today. With time running out in the half, Sam Simmonds scored to simply add further insult to the visitors’ injury. The conversion was missed again from a wide angle as the half-time whistle sounded, and the Chiefs brought a 31-10 lead with them into the interval.
The second half started much as the first had ended. Tom Hendrickson found himself as the fifth different try-scorer for Exeter within five minutes, and Joe Simmonds finally managed to make a kick from out wide.
Cardiff needed some luck to get back into the game, and it was handed to them as a sloppy Chiefs pass found its way into the hands of Sheekey around the halfway line. The visitors broke quickly, and finally Jamie Beal passed over the try line which made the scoreline 38-15.
Yet if the Blues had any ideas about getting back into the game, the Chiefs quickly tossed them out of the window. Joe Simmonds set up Stu Townsend for a try, with Simmonds then duly converted. At 45-15 with 25 minutes left to play, the only question remaining was the number of points which the Devon side would win by.
Still, the Blues would not give up, and soon it was Rhun Williams who found himself grounding the ball for five points. A tame effort at a conversion saw the visiting side leave points on the table yet again, yet they were soon over the try line again. Williams caught up to a kick that wasn’t properly taken, and just managed to make it to the ball in time to reduce the deficit to 20.
The momentum was quickly cut off, however, as Tom Johnson kept the home scoreboard ticking over with a try right in the corner. The conversion would turn out to be too much to ask for, and instead the hosts were forced to sit at only a 50-25 lead. Jack Innard added to the lead even further a few minutes later off the back of a decent maul, and Simmonds added the extra points from the tee. With five minutes left, the Chiefs still weren’t done. This time, it was EURFC’s Tom Lawday that got the try, to set the score at 62-25, which is how the match would end, providing a decisive win that could prove vital to Exeter’s Anglo-Welsh Cup hopes.