New season, same consistent Chiefs. Same Tigers too – who have lost their stripes.
Exeter started their Premiership campaign with a typically impressive bonus-point win at home to Leicester – the best compliment you can give last year’s runners-up was that it was oh so predictable.
Leicester were desperately underwhelming here – their star-studded backline absent, and pack bullied – which will not ease concerns over the future of their boss, Matt O’Connor. In truth, their demise was inevitable.
Exeter started their campaign with a typically impressive bonus-point win against Leicester
His side hardly look to have improved on the one that missed out on the playoffs for the first time in 13 years last season.
Meanwhile Exeter continue serenely on. Englishmen Olly Woodburn, Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Henry Slade had five of the tries, Ian Whitten the sixth and Gareth Steenson kicked the rest.
With rumourS circulating about the future of Tigers’ boss O’Connor, this was not the start the Australian needed.
Leicester – as they did last year – have quite the back-line on paper, with Ben Youngs and Ford feeding Matt Toomua, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Adam Thompstone and Telusa Veainu, so it was a shame the Tigers hardly used them in the first half.
Henry Slade was one of six try-scorers as the Chiefs ran riot against the Tigers at Sandy Park
Ian Whitten celebrates touching down Exeter’s sixth try of the afternoon against Leicester
Ford kicked a lot of possession away and, to start with, it worked. They let Exeter run back at them, tackled hard and kept things tight.
They even led 6-0 with 25 minutes gone with Ford hitting two penalties – one for a scrum infringement, and the other when the Chiefs did not retreat 10 metres – but it did not last.
Soon Ollie Devoto and Kvesic were playing their socks off, finding holes and soft shoulders, and Simmonds was back to his dynamic all-action best.
Before the half was up Exeter scored twice. Simmonds broken on the right to start the move for the first, and when the ball was shipped back left Kvesic knew what to do. The flanker dummied prop Greg Bateman and was away.
Tigers boss Matt O’Connor will have concerns over their absent backline and lacklustre pack
He found the rampaging Alec Hepburn who was hauled down metres from the line. No matter, Woodburn was on hand to snipe home between the posts.
Then, three minutes from the interval Simmonds had a try of his own. He again made the initial surge but this time finished it off from close range after the Chiefs had patiently recycled the ball through several phases – in typical style. Steenson took both conversions before Ford had time to miss a penalty before the break.
It took until 20 minutes from time for the next set of points – both sides cancelling each other out and construing to infringe when attacks were on.
Substitute Cowan-Dickie had Exeter’s third. It was a classic Chiefs score really, lots of phases and a big forward offering the last flop to the line – but it came from an ambitious place. Exeter were given a kickable penalty but decided to lump it to touch, not take the points.
Matt Kvesic was one of the Chiefs’ star men on a perfect day for the club at Sandy Park
Then the inevitable bonus-point. Slade followed Sam Skinner through an alarmingly large hole in the Leicester defence and took the lock’s pass for the fourth. Steenson slotted the kick.
To finish the rout, Kvesic then dived over with three minutes to go and Whitten jogged in for the final try to rub salt in a gaping wound. Steenson missed one conversion and kicked the other, to send Exeter past 40 and embarrass Leicester further.
Tigers are a shadow of their former selves and despite stellar names look nowhere near the best in this league already.
Exeter boss Rob Baxter watches on as his side record an impressive opening-weekend win