Leicester secured their 3rd straight win at Exeter's Sandy Park to share an early lead of the Premiership table. Tigers won 24-20 after tries from Anthony Allen and Ben Youngs plus 11 points from Freddie Burns and a final penalty from Owen Williams. Exeter lead 17-13 at half time through scores from Dave Ewers and Haydn Thomas.
Tigers were down a man early after the ludicrously harsh yellow card for Vereniki Goneva's allegedly high tackle. Goneva's arm clearly makes contact under the collarbone, possibly slipping up to justify a harsh penalty, but by no means over the shoulder to warrant a yellow.
Exeter were by far the better side in the first completely deserving their 4 point half time lead. Exeter out enthused Tigers, raising the tempo and fly into everything. Tigers seemed heavy legged and negative in contrast.
Both Exeter tries came after poor control at the base of the scrum from Barbieri; Dave Ewers twisted out of Geoff Parling's tackle for the first score whilst Goneva was still in the bin with Thomas spinning out of Balmain's challenge for the second.
In between Tigers had struck back to level the score with Anthony Allen try. Following a pin point kick to the corner Tigers pack drew a maul penalty from the Chiefs; with advantage Freddie Burns took the ball level with the left hand up right, leaned back and dithered deliberately to draw the defence closer, and slotted a delicious grubber kick between the posts for Anthony Allen to snaffle for his first try since March.
Dave Ewers breaking his bind from a scrum quickly gave Burns the chance to avenge Thomas' score. A late flurry of penalties saw Steenson nail another kick after Salvi was ruled to have not released in the tackle, then at the first ruck from the kick off an Exeter were off side from the kick ahead and Burns gave us the half time score of 17-13 to the hosts.
Tigers were much improved in the second half, controlling the territory and raising the physicality levels. Almost immediately from the kick off Tom Youngs counter ruck forced Haydn Thomas off his feet in the ruck. Burns was cool under pressure to reduce the arrears to 1.
Burns was again to the fore with two excellent raking kicks pinning Exeter back into the corners. From the second Kitchener raised his giant paw to claim the throw in and Tigers set the maul. With another penalty advantage Ben Youngs organised a drive with Leonardo Ghiraldini driving the half back over. Burns sole blot on his copy book was the missed simple conversion.
But Tigers had the lead for the first time after almost an hour and bitterly hung on to it.
Gareth Steenson clawed back 3 points when Julian Salvi was ruled off side, after turning down a shot at goal minutes earlier, but it was in vain as Tigers dominated the final 10 minutes to snuff out any chance of defeat.
Jamie Gibson was only denied a fantastic turnover by a Exeter player holding on; Burns found a great touch only 5m from the line and Tigers pack rumbled forwards again.
Only Dave Ewers despairing lunge from the side prevented a try and there was a serious case for a penalty try, if a scrum was marching forward like that I doubt the referee would not storm under the posts.
Tigers took the lineout again but could not replicate the drive; the forwards were more than content in rumbling around the fringe and when Exeter conceded a central ruck penalty Owen Williams was more than happy to slot the 3.
Exeter had some decent territory in the final throes but that was snuffed out with debutant Riccardo Brugnara earning a penalty by forcing Moray Low to stand up in the scrum.
From that line out Tigers ground the clock down and secured the early season win that might prove vital in the final reckonings.