Chiefs secure win against Scarlets
December 15, 2012
Exeter's Ally Muldowney runs into the Scarlets' defence
© PA Photos
Exeter Chiefs secured their second win in a week over the Scarlets to keep alive hopes of qualification to a European quarter-final.
The Scarlets pulled recovered from 17-3 down to get back on level terms early in the second half, but a late try from James Scaysbrook sealed victory for the Chiefs. Despite their 22-16 victory over the Scarlets at Parc Y Scarlets - Exeter's first ever win in the Heineken Cup - head coach Rob Baxter made changes ahead of upcoming games with Gloucester and Bath in the Aviva Premiership.
Locks Aly Muldowney and James Hanks, blindside flanker Dean Mumm, centre Ian Whitten, wing Jack Nowell and full-back Phil Dollman were drafted into the starting line-up. Baxter's opposite number Simon Easterby also made changes with his side's next four games on the road. Wales international wing George North returned so Liam Williamson switched to full-back. Gareth Maule started on the other wing with Aled Thomas at fly-half. In the pack Shaun Hopkins was at loosehead prop, Ken Owens at hooker, Tongan international Sione Timani in the second row with George Earle at blindside flanker.
Gareth Steenson missed an early penalty but the Chiefs continued to apply the pressure as Nowell made a break with Whitten up in support to touch down under the posts. Steenson added the simple conversion. Minutes later the Scarlets were reduced to 14 men when Tom Johnston, in his 150th appearance for the Chiefs, was tackled high by Liam Williams, who was sent to the sin-bin by French referee Romain Poite.
Steenson landed the resulting penalty but after Thomas replied in kind, the visiting fly-half had a clearance kick charged down and hooker Simon Alcott picked up the loose ball to cross for the second try which Steenson converted. Midway through the half, lock James Hanks was sent to the bin for taking a swipe at flanker Jonathan Davies.
With the Chiefs down to 14 men they received a team warning in front of their own posts and the Scarlets reduced the arrears with a Thomas penalty. Then from an Exeter free-kick inside the Scarlets 22 the visitors mounted a break to take them close to the Chiefs line. Number eight Kieran Murphy was bundled into touch just short of the line and the Chiefs were then able to clear up field. Exeter, back to full strength, then had their defence tested but deservedly Owens went over the whitewash.
Thomas converted from out wide but when the Chiefs mounted an attack the Scarlets were penalised for pulling down at the line-out. Steenson landed the penalty to give the Chiefs a 20-13 lead at the break.
Early in the second half the Scarlets capitalised as play continued while Johnson was leaving the field with an injured shoulder. North put Scott Williams away in the left corner and the conversion from Thomas levelled the scores. Exeter finally got back into the game after making a number of charges and centre Sireli Naqelevuki was held up over the line. The Scarlets defence initially held against another series until James Hanks knocked on.
The Chiefs pack then exerted the pressure at a series of scrums in front of the posts. After a number of resets, the Scarlets were penalised for standing up and Steenson's simple penalty nudged his side back in front. Exeter went in search of another try in the final minutes and Scaysbrook went over under the posts before Steenson added the extras to complete the scoring.
Despite seeing his side record an impressive win over the Scarlets, Exeter boss Rob Baxter was quick to turn the focus to his team's next Aviva Premiership fixtures. "The next two Heineken Cup games [away to Clermont and home to Leinster] can go to bed for a while now because we have some very important Premiership rugby to take care of," Baxter said.. "If we don't take care of that we would be in danger of letting the season fall flat a little because we were are in a nice place now, ticking along quite well but showing some consistency and improvement in some areas but getting a little dented in others.
"But as long as we keep fighting to take those steps forward then I will be very happy. We have backed up a win in the Heineken Cup with a second win and this was our first in front of our own supporters. I am confident that we can play better, which I have said to the players is a nice place to be in.
"There was a lot of endeavour out there and a lot of hard work. Sometimes you just have to graft your way through to a win and that is what we did."
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