Tigers were never behind in the game; taking a 3-0 lead in the 10th minute after their first attack was halted by a Chiefs penalty. Exeter’s rising star, so the papers tell me, Henry Slade was wide with two earlier chances and refused to take a shot at levelling the scores instead pumping it to the corner.
Tigers defence turned them away with Dan Cole surging through the maul and Seremai Bai holding the ball up.
Burns doubled the lead after Geoff Parling was taken out without the ball and Slade was finally on the score board in the 22nd minute; Jamie Gibson the transgressor after picking up the loose ball from an offside position following a Tigers charge down.
Exeter had the best of the next ten minutes, dominating possession and territory after Tigers failed to deal with the kick off. The Chiefs strung together almost 30 phases of possession, but produced nothing to threaten the Tigers defence. With the inevitable penalty against the defence, a travesty in this case as Salvi was on his feet and should have seen the whistle blow the other way, Exeter again refused a drawing kick instead going to the corner.
In contrast to a fortnight previously Tigers again turned Exeter back, forcing them wide until Matt Smith’s ferocious defence took Ian Whitten and the Chiefs into touch. Tigers cleared the pressure and were rewarded with two penalties before half time.
The first followed a devilish break from Miles Benjamin, unfortunately his last involvement before a knee injury, with the front five also prominent creating the space on the blindside. The second followed a smart line out move with Ben Youngs breaking onto brother Tom’s quick throw. Ben returned the ball to Tom but he was unable to finish.
Tigers showed no patience in attack, with the ball flung 20 yards backwards to try and exploit a marginal overlap on the other touchline, rather than continuing to drive through the forwards. Thankfully there was an advantage and Tigers went into the break 12-3 up.
Into the 2nd period Tigers first attack of the half was ended when Exeter took the man early again. Tigers fifth entrance to the Exeter 22 and the fifth Exeter penalty did not seem to interest Doyle with a yellow card but Burns made no mistake to earn a 15-3 lead.
In Exeter’s first attack of the second half, and in stark contrast to Tigers rushed approach, they scored the game’s first try. Thomas Waldrom was the scorer as Exeter picked and went round the corner until they exposed the weak shoulder. There was no video evidence of the grounding but referee JP Doyle was on the spot and happy to make the award.
Despite the score being almost under the posts Slade missed the simple conversion, under pressure from Gibson’s charge he skewed the kick horribly into the post.
This seemed to stir Tigers into action, with Goneva become much more prominent, breaking through the middle of a ruck before popping up on the outside later.
Goneva was almost in at the corner following a string of Tigers attacks but was forced into touch by Nowell. Exeter overthrew the lineout allowing Dan Cole to claim possession but the burly prop was held up in his attempts to ground the ball.
Tigers attacked from the collapsed scrum finding De Chaves on the left flank who drew the last Exeter defender and freed Parling to scoot in by the touchline.
Exeter’s second score had controversial origins, their replacement hooker Elvis Taione playing the ball from a clearly off side position to secure one of the game’s rare turnovers, with the Tigers defence disorganised Slade cut through the left side and found Chudley in support to dart under the posts.
Tigers missed the chance to extend the lead when Tommy Bell’s estimate of his kicking range proved optimistic but Freddie Burns was able to push the lead out to 10 points after Dean Mumm played the half back from within the ruck.
Tigers looked to be cruising to the win and so it proved but not before a soft scrum penalty with the clock dead gave Exeter their losing bonus point.
A fifth league win in a row has lifted Tigers into the top 4, currently 3rd but expected to drop when Bath face Welsh today, and with games against Saracens, Wasps and Northampton to come we hold of destiny in our own hands.