Exeter Chiefs Pivotal Victory Over Sale Sharks 24-22

    It’s seems it’s who will falter first in this season’s Gallagher Premiership, but Exeter Chiefs kept up their hopes of being among the frontrunners come May with a pivotal victory over Sale Sharks, 24-22

    It’s seems it’s who will falter first in this season’s Gallagher Premiership, but Exeter Chiefs kept up their hopes of being among the frontrunners come May with a pivotal victory over Sale Sharks.

    Having seen themselves drop to seventh ahead of this latest match-up, Rob Baxter’s side re-ignited their play-off push with this latest triumph. Full-back Josh Hodge was the catalyst, scoring two first half scores to go alongside that of another from Harry Williams.

    Fly-half Harvey Skinner converted all three efforts, before landing a match-winning penalty in the second half to thwart the Sharks, who themselves had offered plenty in both attack and defence to grab scores of their own through Tom Roebuck, Ewan Ashman and Sam Dugdale with Rob du Preez kicking the remainder of their points.

    Back in action for the first time in a fortnight, there was a similar feel to things from last time out with the Mancunians providing the opposition once more. Unlike the Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final, these were much changed line-ups for both clubs as they sought vital points in the push for the play-offs.

    One of those back - for the first time in three months - was Exeter’s South African powerhouse, Jacques Vermeulen, who took less than a minute to introduce himself to proceedings, charging over the top of former Chief Jonny Hill, who along with Tom O’Flaherty, were making their first returns since heading North last summer.

    It set the tone for a forceful opening from the Chiefs, who came within a whisker of opening the scoring when Solomone Kata narrowly failed to find Olly Woodburn in the left corner. At the other end, O’Flaherty saw a chip kick in behind from George Ford, playing his first Premiership game for the Sharks, evade him as tore down the left flank in hot pursuit.

    Sale, though, were growing into the game and following a lengthy passage of multi-phase rugby, their cause was aided when home fly-half Skinner was yellow carded for a head-on-head challenge with Ryan Mills. Up stepped, Rob du Preez to fire his side in front with the resultant penalty.

    Minutes later and the Sharks were adding to their advantage, grabbing the game’s opening try when Roebuck, fielding a loose kick from Jack Nowell, was returned with interest, the winger scything his way through a missing Exeter defensive line to claim the converted score.

    The Chiefs needed some kind of response which, thankfully, was not long in coming as the hosts roared into life. Using their powerhouse pack to do the donkey work, their incessant work just yards from the line was rewarded when Williams burrowed over from just a few yards out.

    Sale’s Dugdale saw yellow in the aftermath, the victim of a rising penalty count, and he was joined on the sidelines just three minutes later by prop Bevan Rodd, who suffered a similar fate for killing the ball following a dynamic 40-metre burst from Hodge.

    The young full-back was growing into the game by the minute and punished the visitors for their ill-discipline just past the half-hour mark when he was able to gather just outside the Sale 22 and race his way over for the score.

    Not content with that effort, he doubled his tally just three minutes later, again showing a clean pair of heels to the somewhat lethargic Sharks defence. Skinner, as he done with the other two conversions, slotted the extras to put his side 11 points up heading into the break.


    The strong conclusion to that opening half had helped put the Chiefs in prime position to attack the second half - and they returned to the field brimming with confidence as they looked to attack the opening exchanges. The Chiefs pushed and probed, but Sale were proving miserly in defence, offering nothing and putting in a glut of bone-crunching hits to repel the various Exeter raids.

    Indeed, having soaked up some heavy early pressure from the home side, the Sharks showed they still had plenty of bite about them, reducing the arrears with their second try on 50 minutes. Patient, yet physical approach work from them saw them create some decent front-foot ball, the fruits of which paved the way for in-form hooker Ashman to drive his way over the whitewash.

    The score seemed to ignite Sale, who turned to their bench in a bid to add some injection of pace and power into their game. Whereas the Chiefs had started the half with little concern, now the heat was coming on thick and fast from the visitors.

    Replacement Raffi Quirke was a live-wire around every ruck, whilst the experienced Ford looked to fashion another opening with a delightful cross-field kick, only for winger Olly Woodburn to pluck it from the air and win a crucial turnover for the Devonians.

    With the bit still between their teeth, the Sharks continued to pile forward, causing the Chiefs to scramble in defence. At first, it looked as though the home side had done enough to thwart their advances, but with another prolonged attacking surge, this time they could not hold the Northerners as Dugdale snuck over in the corner to give his side the lead once more.

    Behind once more, it was now the turn of the Chiefs to go chasing the game. This they did, regaining the advantage inside just three minutes, Skinner slotting a 40-metre kick at the South End after referee Luke Pearce had pulled up Ford for not rolling away from the tackle area.

    It was pulsating stuff for everyone inside Sandy Park as first the Sharks threatened, then the Chiefs. Hits were going in from everywhere and when rugby outside finally broke out, Woodburn was denied a potential bonus point score as he was deemed to have put a foot in touch as he looked to dot down.

    Moments later and the Chiefs were again camped on the Sale try-line. They must have gone through double figures in their pick-and-go approach, but it wasn’t to be as they sadly fluffed their lines, allowing the Sharks to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Skipper Nowell was clearly frustrated that his forwards had gone ‘Route One’ as he stood a lone figure out wide with no Sale defender within touching distance.

    In the end, it meant the Chiefs bagged four points and Sale one, where really the hosts should have sent their rivals back up the motorway with nothing for their toil. Whether that outcome had a bearing come the end of the season, only time will tell. For now, Exeter will rest up, ready for their ‘Big Game’ encounter at HQ at the Mighty Quins’.

    Chiefs: J Hodge; J Nowell (capt), I Whitten, S Kata (T Hendrickson 67), O Woodburn; H Skinner, S Maunder (J Maunder 64); S Sio (D Southworth 60), J Innard (D Frost 49), H Williams (P Schickerling 60); J Kirsten (M Williams 60), J Dunne; D Ewers (A Davis 64), J Vermeulen, S Simmonds. Replacement (not used): J Simmonds.

    Tries - Williams, Hodge (2); Conversions - Skinner (3); Penalty - Skinner

    Yellow Card: Skinner

    Sharks: J Carpenter; T Roebuck (S McIntyre 29-39), R du Preez, R Mills, T O’Flaherty (A Reed 66); G Ford, G Warr (R Quirke 60); B Rodd (S McIntyre 78), E Ashman, C Oostehuizen (J Jones 64); C Wiese, J Hill; J Ross (capt, J Beaumont 60), S Dugdale, J-L du Preez. Replacements (not used): E Caine, A Groves, S James.

    Tries - Roebuck, Ashman, Dugdale; Conversions - R du Preez (2); Penalty - R du Preez

    Yellow Cards: Dugdale, Rodd

    Referee: L Pearce

    Attendance: 9,336

    More from Exeter Sport

    Paulos Circus Tickets Buy Now!!


    Tide Times

    Today's Weather

    • Exmouth

      Light rain

      High: 12°C | Low: 10°C

    • Sidmouth

      Light rain

      High: 12°C | Low: 10°C

    • Exeter

      Light rain

      High: 13°C | Low: 10°C

    • Dawlish

      Light rain

      High: 12°C | Low: 10°C

    Easy Fundraising

    What's On