Premiership: Worcester Warriors 17-21 Exeter Chiefs – Warriors give champions a scare

4 weeks ago
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Jonny Gray scores for Exeter
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 run 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.

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

Having gone through what director of rugby Rob Baxter had described as an “emotional wobble” in losing successive games, Exeter seemed to be back to their old selves when 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 but Francois Hougaard coughed the ball up as he dived over the line.

Centre Morris then cut a fine angle to go in for his first Premiership try 13 minutes prior to the break, before 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.

Again Worcester responded as, after Devoto was yellow-carded for a high tackle, Weir scored a try that will give Exeter’s coaches nightmares.

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 at Sixways in as many seasons.

Worcester head coach Jonathan Thomas told BBC Hereford & Worcester:

“We felt there was an opportunity for us here. We really believed we could do that. It was certainly proved that there were lots of opportunities to win.

“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.

“We want to create our own history over the next few years. And there’s no better team to start that against. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get over the line.”

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Radio Devon:

“In the first 15 minutes we were very, very good, then suddenly we 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’.

“We’ve shown a lot of qualities battling through. We’ve got over some nervy, edgy moments. On the whole our defence stood up really well because we haven’t conceded a lot of points. With a set-piece that was creaking a little, we could have found ourselves under pressure.

“But we’ve weathered the storm. 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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BBC Sport – Rugby Union

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