Exeter hammer Sale in opener
September 1, 2012
Exeter's Aly Muldowney takes the ball into contact
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Exeter ran in six tries and smashed the Sale Sharks 43-6 in the season opener at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The Chiefs took a try-scoring bonus point, two of them from Matthew Jess, as they restricted the visitors to just two penalties to remain unbeaten in five games against the Sharks. Former England fly-half Danny Cipriani had to bide his time on the Sale replacements bench to mark his return to the Premiership after two seasons with Melbourne Rebels.
Just after the half-hour mark, Cipriani took to the field and slotted in to the fly-half berth with Nick MacLeod switching to inside centre as Sam Tuitupou limped out of the game.
Sale Sharks new boss Bryan Redpath gave club debuts to wing Corne Uys (Newcastle Falcons) and lock Richie Gray (Glasgow) but Nick MacLeod started at fly-half. Scotland head coach Andy Robinson was at the game to watch Gray, who was his outstanding player in last season's Six Nations, as he prepares for the Autumn internationals against New Zealand, South Africa and Tonga.
Even though Exeter Chiefs had made eight signings during the summer but head coach Rob Baxter gave debuts to just two - centre Ian Whitten and scrum-half Will Chudley.
Despite various pre-season games both sides took time to settle in to their game and the Chiefs had problems in both the scrum and Chris Whitehead's lineout throws. But it was the home side who put the first points on the board through a 45-metre penalty from out wide from the boot of Argentina fly-half Ignacio Mieres after 12 minutes.
Mieres was on hand to score the Chiefs' first try of the Premiership season as he crossed the line after an excellent break up the middle from wing Josh Tatupu before off loading to James Scaysbrook. The blindside flanker was stopped five metres short but from the second phase play, Whitten put Mieres over. His conversion attempt, though, hit the far upright and bounced the wrong way.
Mieres made amends with a second 45-metre penalty midway through the half but five minutes later MacLeod cancelled that out with the Sharks' first points of the game. The Chiefs had the chance of a second try before the break after a run by Shoemark but with two players outside, he stepped inside and the ball was knocked on. Sharks were penalised at the scrum and Mieres landed his third penalty to give his side a 14-3 interval lead.
Exeter made the perfect start to the second half with number eight Richard Baxter making the lineout ball and lock Aly Muldowney crossing for the Chiefs' second try. Mieres added the simple conversion before MacLeod landed his second penalty. But the Chiefs replied with Shoemark breaking down the left before giving the scoring pass to Jess to cross for the third try.
Midway through the second period the Chiefs scored their bonus-point try starting from a Mieres break before who linked-up with Tatupu to put flanker Tom Johnson through for the touchdown. Replacement scrum-half Kevin Barrett then picked up from the back of the scrum and flipped the ball out of the back of his hand to set up an overlap, with Jess racing down the touchline for his second try of the day.
With less than 10 minutes to go local hero Chris Budgen, who had been on the field less than 10 minutes, had his hand on the ball at the bottom of the pack for a try to which Gareth Steenson added the extras.
Sale boss Bryan Redpath bemoaned his team's performance saying: "Any team that does that isn't going to win or come close. To play any team in the Premiership that [the performance] wouldn't have been good enough so there is no hiding place for it. It wasn't the game plan not been heeded but individual errors and our detail was poor so we never got to our game plan because there were 10 set pieces that we gave away and they scored on three them.
"There were too many individual errors across the board from lots of people and we all have to take it on board and take the criticism that comes. Quite rightly it deserves to come. We have Saracens next Saturday and we can't forget this game nor can we dwell on it. We have to man up and take the criticism and show a good performance next weekend which has to be a lot better than this."
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