Champions Exeter hold on to win at Worcester

Jonny Gray scores for Exeter
Jonny Gray’s eighth-minute try proved crucial as Exeter got back to winning ways
Worcester (10) 17
Tries: Morris, Weir Cons: Weir 2 Pen: Weir
Exeter (14) 21
Tries: Gray, Whitten, Devoto Cons: J Simmonds 3

Champions Exeter ended their two-game Premiership losing streak with a hard-fought 21-17 victory at Worcester.

Exeter took advantage of an early Niall Annett yellow card as Jonny Gray and Ian Whitten went over.

Oli Morris got a try back as the hosts impressed as the first half went on.

Ollie Devoto increased Exeter’s lead soon after the break, but Duncan Weir’s opportunist try kept the hosts in it as they caused Exeter lots of problems in attack and did well in defence.

The win moves Exeter up to second place in the table, five points off leaders Bristol, while Worcester remain three points above bottom side Gloucester after they got a losing bonus at home to Northampton.

Having gone through what director of rugby Rob Baxter had described as an “emotional wobble” after losing their past two games, Exeter seemed to be back to their old selves as Gray was forced over in the seventh minute after Annett had been penalised for a no-arms tackle.

Whitten followed soon after thanks to great work by Stuart Hogg and Sam Simmonds, but the Warriors grew into the game with a full compliment of 15 men.

They should have been ahead at half-time – Francois Hougaard coughed the ball up as he dived over the line before Morris cut a fine angle to go in for his first Premiership try 13 minutes before the break, while Perry Humphreys had a try chalked off for a forward pass.

Weir – who replaced the injured Billy Searle at fly-half – kicked a penalty late in the first half, but after the break Exeter appeared reinvigorated as Devoto took advantage of good hands by Gray and Whitten for his 43rd-minute try.

But again Worcester responded as, after Devoto was yellow-carded for a high tackle, Weir scored a try that will give Exeter’s coaches nightmares when Olly Woodburn was stripped of the ball by the Scotland international just outside the visitors’ try-line having decided not to dot down in the in-goal area.

Worcester’s defence was impressive throughout and they forced a number of turnovers with the Chiefs in possession in dangerous areas of their half, but the Warriors could not find a final incisive play as Exeter held on for a third narrow win in as many seasons at Sixways.

Worcester head coach Jonathan Thomas told BBC Hereford & Worcester:

“We spoke about it all week, we felt there was an opportunity for us here, we really believed that we could do that and it was certainly proved that there were lots of opportunities to win that game.

“I’m really proud of the effort of the players. We spoke before the game about our mindset, never giving up. We are full of respect for Exeter as a club and what they’ve achieved, but we want to create our own history over the next few years.

“There’s no better team to start that against today; unfortunately we didn’t quite get over the line.”

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Radio Devon:

“I thought in the first 15 minutes we were very, very good and then we suddenly forced one pass and it’s a length-of-the-pitch turnaround and from then on we almost looked at each other and went ‘it’s not going to be quite like we wanted it to be’.

“I think we’ve shown a lot of qualities battling through, we’ve got over some nervy, edgy moments.

“I thought on the whole our defence stood up really well because we haven’t conceded a lot of points today, and that with a set-piece that was creaking a little bit we could have found ourselves under pressure, but we’ve weathered the storm and come through.

“Sometimes just getting back to winning ways is like that, you just get a win in there and things can move forward.”

Worcester: Pennell; Humphreys, Morris, Beck, David; Searle, Hougaard; Waller, Annett, Schonert, Clegg, Kitchener, Hill (capt), Kvesic, Mama.

Replacements: Cutting, Thomas, Palframan, Bresler, Lewis, Simpson, Weir, Venter.

Exeter: Hogg; Woodburn, Whitten, Devoto, O’Flaherty; J Simmonds, Maunder; Hepburn, Yeandle (capt), Francis, Gray, Skinner, Ewers, Capstick, S Simmonds

Replacements: Innard, Kenny, Street, Armand, Lonsdale, Hidalgo-Clyne, Skinner, Hendrickson

Referee: Tom Foley (RFU).


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