Match Centre: Exeter Chiefs 19-13 Bristol Bears

Tom O'Flaherty was one of Exeter's try scorer
Tom O'Flaherty was one of Exeter's try scorer
©Steve Haag

Exeter Chiefs 19-13 Bristol Bears, Sandy Park

Exeter started the new year with a win as they edged out Bristol Bears 19-13 in the 12th round of the Gallagher Premiership at Sandy Park on Saturday.

The game saw a record crowd of 14,100 and the home team did not disappoint as they secured their sixth win that has saw them climbed to the sixth position in the table while Bristol Bears are at 12th.

Both the teams were desperate for early breakthrough but it was Exeter, who got the first points in the game as Jack Nowell kicked into space with Stuart Hogg gathering and sending Tom O'Flaherty over the line in the 13th minute and Joe Simmonds followed with the conversion to make it 7-0.

Callum Sheedy missed a penalty goal in the 15th minute but made amends with another three-pointer in the 18th minute to get the visitors off the mark but they suffered an injury blow when full-back Charles Piutau went off and was replaced by Purdy.

Nevertheless, Rob Baxter's men had control heading into the break as Jonny Hill went on to beat a couple of defenders to dot down but Simmonds missed out on the conversion as the opening half ended with a 12-3 lead for the hosts.

Bristol tried to exert pressure on Exeter in the second half but could not quite convert it into points. Semi Radradra looked threatening and just when he looked good, he lost possession halfway.

After a period of sustained pressure, Bristol got their breakthrough in the 69th minute with Henry Purdy intercepting a pass from Simmonds to dot down and Sheedy's conversion brought down the gap down to just two points setting up a tense finish.

The decisive moment came in the 74th minute when Hogg, who committed his stay at Exeter dived from close range after collecting a looping pass from Simmonds, who also kicked the conversion to help Baxter's men complete a thrilling six-point win.

Team line up:

Exeter: Hogg; Nowell, Slade, Devoto, O'Flaherty; J Simmonds, Maunder; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Nixon, S Skinner, Hill, Ewers, Kirsten, S Simmonds.

Reserves: Yeandle, Moon, Iosefa-Scott, Lonsdale, Armand, Maunder, H Skinner, Whitten.

Bristol: Piutau; Morahan, Radradra, Bedlow, Lloyd; Sheedy, Randall; Y Thomas, Thacker, Sinckler, Joyce, Vui, Harding, D Thomas, Hughes.

Reserves: Capon, Woolmore, Afoa, Hawkins, Eadie, Uren, O'Conor, Purdy.

Widely regarded as the most competitive rugby union league in the can only be the Gallagher Premiership.

The division is becoming more and more exciting as each year passes by so who will be lifting silverware at Twickenham in May?

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