Strong bonus-point display by Exeter as they score three tries in seven minutes
London Irish battle away to claim four tries and collect losing bonus point
Sam Simmonds of Exeter Chiefs is tackled by Barney Maddison of London Irish during their Premiership match at the Madejski Stadium in Reading. Photograph: Henry Browne/Getty Images
Premiership leaders Exeter posted a sixth league win of the season by beating London Irish 45-28 at the Madejski Stadium. The Chiefs delivered a strong bonus-point display, decisively scoring three converted tries in seven minutes before half time.
London Irish battled away to claim four tries of their own and collect a losing bonus point, with Exeter briefly being reduced to 13 men in the second half when wing Olly Woodburn and centre Ollie Devoto were sin-binned for deliberate knock-ons.
Lock Davie Dennis, hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and Devoto all followed Sam Hill over the Irish line before the break, and there was no way back for a London Irish side condemned to a third successive league defeat. Hill added his second try just after the break, before substitute scrum-half Stu Townsend crossed.
And although Irish responded with touchdowns by wing Belgium Tuatagaloa, number eight Albert Tuisue, wing Ollie Hassell-Collins and flanker Steve Mafi – all converted by Stephen Myler – Exeter were good value.
Gareth Steenson finished with 15 points from six conversions and a penalty for Exeter, and they remain top of the Premiership pile heading into a fortnight of Heineken Champions Cup rugby.
Yet the Chiefs only had to wait another two minutes before opening their account, with strong work by the pack setting up an attacking platform before Hill crossed for a try, which Steenson converted.
Irish were starved of possession during the early stages, yet they made the most of their first opportunity, switching play from a scrum and Tuatagaloa crossed on the overlap. Myler kicked a touchline conversion attempt.
It was an impressive response by the home side, but they were then forced into an early change when their Australia international lock Adam Coleman went off injured, being replaced by Barney Maddison.
Exeter regained the lead seven minutes before half time, using their strong ball-carriers to maximum effect, and skipper Dennis touched down, allowing Steenson another easy conversion for a 14-7 advantage.
Exeter pushed for another score as the interval approached, and it arrived after their forwards drove from a lineout and Cowan-Dickie finished off, with Steenson’s third successful conversion leaving Irish reeling.
And there was still time for another try, with Exeter completing a blistering spell when Devoto finished brilliantly for a bonus-point score, which Steenson again converted.
Fine solo try
Irish were down and out, and Hill scored a fine solo try just two minutes after the restart that took Exeter past 30 points.
Yet London Irish gave their supporters something to cheer about when Tuisue crossed from close range, and Myler converted, yet it remained a tough exercise against a team in impressive form.
Hassell-Collins provided brief hope of an unlikely comeback with a high-class finish for London Irish’s third try, but Exeter resumed normal service when Hill made a decisive break and delivered an exquisite pass to Townsend.
Steenson’s conversion made it 42-21, before Exeter were temporarily reduced to 14 men when Woodburn was yellow carded, then Devoto followed him three minutes later for an identical offence.
Mafi’s score gave London Irish a fourth try as Exeter played two men short for eight minutes, but a Steenson penalty confirmed a healthy Exeter advantage and preservation of top spot in the league.