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Match report: Exeter Chiefs versus Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers were beaten 40-6 by Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on the opening day of the Gallagher Premiership season.

George Ford gave the visitors an early lead and doubled the advantage with his second kick before Chiefs, who gained momentum in the spell approaching half-time, grabbed two quick scores from Olly Woodburn and Sam Simmonds to lead 14-6 at the break.

Neither side could find an important score in the third quarter of the game, but Chiefs wrestled the initiative with two tries in six minutes just after the hour mark and added two more in the closing four minutes of the game to open their campaign on a winning note and claim a bonus point too.

Tigers, with five opening-day wins in the last six seasons of Premiership action, included debutants David Denton and Will Spencer in the forward pack with fellow newcomers Kyle Eastmond, David Feao and Gaston Cortes on the bench, for the trip to face a Chiefs side who finished eight points clear at the top of the table last May before defeat by Saracens in the Premiership Final.

Both teams went into their opening weekend on the back of two wins in three games during pre-season, with the Chiefs beating Cardiff Blues and Munster while Tigers also beat the Blues and then London Irish.

Ford got the game under way with Tigers wearing the white alternate kit against the black-clad Chiefs, and it was the strength of defence from both teams that was a feature of the first half with ferocious hits all over the pitch.

When Jonny May was penalised for a tackle in the air on Santiago Cordero as he collected a high pass, the Tigers defence stood up and got their reward with a penalty following big shots from Sione Kalamafoni and then Spencer.

Cordero then threatened on the wing but Ben Youngs and Ford combined to chase and then clear before Telusa Veainu sniffed half an opportunity as he won the race to his chip ahead but spilled ball as he attempted to gather it in a good position.

The resulting scrum, though, brought a penalty and a first sight of the posts for Ford, from wide on the right approaching 40 metres out. The kick was good and not only broke the deadlock but also pushed the fly-half to 500 points in his Leicester career in his 63rd appearance.

Back is possession, it was Tigers’ turn to test the defence, with Youngs and Ford looking for an opening and Denton carrying strongly until referee Wayne Barnes awarded Exeter a penalty inside their own 22 after multiple phases of play.

Scrappy ball near halfway was cleared by No8 Sam Simmonds and as he broke a tackle, Exeter got forward with Nic White and the influential Ollie Devoto, but wing Woodburn lost possession as Manu Tuilagi defended in the corner.

Both defences were still making their work count, with Tigers rewarded with a penalty near halfway as they swarmed over a breakdown and another when Chiefs failed to release in the tackle.

Ford called for the tee just two metres inside the Exeter half and calmly pushed the ball through the posts to double the lead at 6-0 on 26 minutes.

But Exeter provided an immediate response, with Matt Kvesic and Alec Hepburn combining at close range before Woodburn dotted down next to the posts. Steenson added the conversion for a 7-6 lead from the first really clear-cut chance created by either team in almost half an hour’s play.

A superb steal from Brendon O’Connor, tracking to make a tackle and instantly ripping back possession, ended another Chief attack, but the hosts were building some momentum and, when Denton was whistled for offside, they were back into the visitors’ 22 and stayed there until they claimed a second try.

This time, No8 Simmonds got the final heave over the line after pressure through the forwards which they maintained despite a huge tackle from Kalamafoni on Hepburn in the build-up. Steenson added the extras to make it 14-6 with two minutes remaining in the half.

Ford, from just beyond the 10-metre line, had one last chance in the half to chip at the deficit, but pushed the kick wide.

Steenson got the second half under way with neither side making any personnel changes, and Tigers were quickly on to the ball with Ford twice taking on the defence with neat footwork and front-rowers Greg Bateman and Tom Youngs carrying with intent.

A scrum penalty given against Bateman released the pressure just 10 metres from the Exeter line and Steenson kicked up to halfway. Tigers recovered possession again and, although they kept it for a long spell, Chiefs made it difficult to get make further territory and threatened a third try when they attacked on their right wing until Ben Youngs got over the ball and won a penalty.

Spencer’s shift ended on 51 minutes, replaced by Harry Wells, and Tatafu Polota-Nau soon joined him in the forward pack as the third quarter of the game was played out almost entirely in the centre of the pitch, with neither side finding any space to put together an attack.

A scrum penalty against Tigers gave Steenson a chance to push play into the corner and, although they quickly spread play away from the lineout, they returned to the forwards and replacement hooker Cowan-Dickie got over the line for their third try, which Steenson converted to push the lead out to 21-6.

David Feao made his debut appearance as a replacement for Bateman entering the final quarter and he was quickly on to the ball as Tigers played through phases again. But they remained 30 metres from the tryline and were penalised on the ball at another breakdown.

Chiefs made the most of the opportunity to get back upfield and when lock Sam Skinner burst through a gap, he passed on to replacement Henry Slade to add a bonus-point try. Steenson’s kick made it 28-6.

Kyle Eastmond, Sam Harrison and Mike Williams were added to the Tigers ranks at the restart, but Tigers were pinned back again and, after a penalty award, Slade hammered the ball into the corner to set up a lineout drive and, although they set it up well, Chiefs were held up by some powerful defence.

Exeter were not to be denied, though, even after missing their man at two consecutive attacking lineouts, as they stayed in control and claimed a fifth try from flanker Kvesic in the left-hand corner after Phil Dollman had been stopped just short.

A sixth quickly followed as Chiefs won turnover ball and Slade offloaded for centre partner Ian Whitten to run in unopposed. Steenson knocked over the extras as the clock ticked down to the 80-minute mark and referee Barnes blew for full-time.

Match Details

HT ScoreHalf Time Score

EXE 14-6 LEI

FT ScoreFull Time Score

EXE 40-6 LEI




Wayne Barnes

Exeter Chiefs
Exeter Chiefs

Full Time

Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
Exeter Chiefs
Leicester Tigers

Match Stats

Exeter Chiefs
Leicester Tigers
Penalties Conceded
Yellow Cards
Red Cards
Tackles Won
119/140 85%
154/196 79%
Scrums Won
5/7 71%
7/7 100%
Lineouts Won
17/19 89%
5/9 56%

Player Stats

Exeter Chiefs
Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
15Telusa Veainu
14Adam Thompstone
13Manu Tuilagi
12Matt Toomua
11Jonny May
10George Ford2P
9Ben Youngs
1Greg Bateman
2Tom Youngs
3Dan Cole
4Michael Fitzgerald
5Will Spencer
6David Denton
7Brendon O'Connor
8Sione Kalamafoni
16Tatafu Polota-Nau
17David Fe'ao
18Gaston Cortes
19Harry Wells
20Mike Williams
21Sam Harrison
22Kyle Eastmond
23Jordan Olowofela



Next match

Tigers are back at Welford Road next Saturday when Newcastle Falcons are the visitors in a 3pm kick-off. See you there to cheer on the boys on their return to home ground.



It's all over at Sandy Park. Last year's runners-up have started with a bonus-point victory over the Tigers, scoring six tries in a 40-6 victory.

Last kick conversion

Steenson waits for the clock to run down into the red before landing his conversion with the final kick of the match.

Exeter on the mark again

Slade slices through the Tigers defence. Tigers struggle to get across and the Chiefs centre finds Ian Whitten with a lovely offload to finish behind the posts for Exeter's sixth try.

Nap hand for Exeter

Exeter cross for their fifth try of the game. Kvesic caps his Gallagher Premiership man-of-the-match performance with the try, burrowing over on the left. It goes unconverted.


Indiscipline from Tigers

Dan Cole looks to have ripped possession at the maul, but is pinged for collapsing. He is then marched back 10 for arguing the case. However, O'Connor steals the lineout for Harrison to clear to the 22.


Handling error

Tigers look to attack from deep, but they struggle to get going as the ball goes to ground. Slade turns the defence with a kick in behind. Harrison then slices his clearance to give Exeter the lineout on the 22.


Lineout drive defended

Tigers repel the Exeter lineout drive and Polota-Nau gets on the ball to make sure the Chiefs cannot use possession. The scrum goes to Tigers.

Tigers ring the changes

Sam Harrison, Kyle Eastmond and Mike Williams are on for Ben Youngs, Matt Toomua and Mike Fitzgerald.

Steenson on the mark again

Steenson makes no mistake with his conversion. They lead 28-6.

Bonus point for the Chiefs

Sam Skinner ghosts through a gap in the Tigers defence. Mike Fitzgerald makes the tackle but he offloads for Slade to score.


No way through

Tigers have the ball in front of the Exeter defence, but cannot find a way through. Instead, Ford is pinged for holding on.

Debut for Feao

David Feao, the Tonga international prop, is on for Bateman for his first appearance for Tigers.

Another Steenson conversion

Steenson has a third conversion in front of the posts and extends the Exeter lead to 21-6.

Chiefs have the score

With everyone expecting the drive, Chiefs go off the top of the lineout. Exeter commit men to the breakdown, go again, and Cowan-Dickie scores next to the posts.


Scrum penalty

Exeter reply with a penalty of their own at the next scrum. They turn down the three points and kick for territory. Big passage coming up.


Huge scrum

Tigers make a statement by pushing Exeter off their scrum ball and winning the penalty. Ford kicks into the Chiefs half. 

Tuilagi has been at the fore for Tigers this half with a series of heavy carries, but he knocks on on this occasion. Stu Townsend and Henry Slade introduced for Exeter in place of Nic White and Ollie Devoto.

Welcome back Taff

Tatafu Polota-Nau, fresh from his efforts with Australia, is back in action for Tigers. He is on for captain Tom Youngs.


Exeter spring into attack

Exeter look offside as they sprint up in defence. They force the knock-on and, as they break in attack, Woodburn fails to collect with the Tigers defence stretched.

Second row replacement

Spencer, holding his left shoulder, sees his debut come to an end and he is replaced by Harry Wells. Harry Williams and Luke Cowan-Dickie on in the front row for the Chiefs.


Tigers survive a scare

Jack Yeandle bombs an overlap on the right by going into contact. Tigers regroup and Ben Youngs steals possession before winning the penalty. Referee Barnes marches Exeter back 10 as they argue the penalty.


Exeter ease the pressure

The Chiefs win the penalty at the scrum as Greg Bateman is pinged by referee Barnes. Steenson finds touch on halfway. 


Bright start by Tigers

Tigers keep the ball in hand and go through the phases. Exeter sprint up in defence and Ford slips a kick in behind. May gets their first, but can only knock-on as he tries to go round Cordero.


Second half starts

Steenson will get us going with Tigers attacking from left to right. Exeter, leading 14-6, will have the breeze at their backs this half.


Here come the teams

Tigers, in their white away kit, are first onto the field, followed by Exeter in all black.

That's half-time

Ford's penalty flies across the posts, and that is half-time at Sandy Park. Exeter lead 14-6 at the break.


Last-minute penalty

Time is almost up in the first-half, and Ford will have a penalty with the last kick of the half.

Steenson conerts

Steenson adds another simple conversion to put Exeter 14-6 ahead.

Second Exeter try

Relentless pressure from the Chiefs brings them a second try. Sam Simmonds, the No8, has it, picking up at a close-range ruck and with the weight of Tomas Francis at his back he is forced over.


Another O'Connor turnover

O'Connor wins another turnover and Ford kicks long. Adam Thompstone chases but Phil Dollman tidies up for the Chiefs.

Exeter lead

Steenson adds a simple conversion to give Exeter the lead for the first time in the game. It's 7-6 to the hosts.

It's a try

Barnes is satisfied Woodburns has scored. The winger was aware to the breaks by Matt Kvesic and Alec Hepburn, and picks up to score from close range.


Have the Chiefs scored?

Referee Barnes goes to his TMO to see if the Chiefs have a try through Woodburn.

Ford doubles the lead

Ford, with the breeze at his back, lands a huge kick to put Tigers 6-0 ahead. Keep it going boys.


Superb breakdown work from O'Connor

O'Connor wins a holding-on penalty in midfield. Ben Youngs taps and goes and wins another penalty just inside the Exeter half. Ford points to the posts again.


Defensive scrum

Tigers secure their ball from the scrum and Ben Youngs finds touch 30m out with a box-kick. Tigers continue to hound the Chiefs in defence and force another knock-on.


Danger signs for Tigers

Exeter threaten as Cordero bursts through and gets his offload away. Manu Tuilagi spots the danger, though, and his tackle forces Woodburn into a knock-on 5m out.


Lineout issues on both sides

This time it is Exeter who can't find their target with the lineout and Tom Youngs steals the ball at the back. Tigers working their way into the game after early Exeter territory and possession.

Landmark points

Ford makes no mistake with his penalty to put Tigers' first points of the season on the board. It is also takes Ford 500th points for Tigers in his 63rd appearance. Well done Fordy.


Scrum penalty

The scrum goes down and Tigers win the penalty. It's around 35m from goal out towards the right touchline. Ford is going for the posts ...


Cagey opening

A lot of kicking from both teams in the opening stages. One kick by Veainu bounces kindly for him but he is unable to reel the ball in and Exeter have the scrum.


O'Connor on the volley

Ben Youngs's pass reaches Brendon O'Connor low down and the flanker improvises with a lovely volley into the Exeter half. At the other end, Youngs mops up Ian Whiteen's kick for Ford to find touch.


Veainu versus Woodburn

Tigers force a knock-on in mdifield nad Ford immediately looks to turn the Chiefs defence with a kick behind. It has too much on it for the chasing Veainu and Olly Woodburn dots down in-goal.


Kick tennis

Ford and Steenson exchange a series of kicks which ends with a Tigers lineout on halfway, but the lineout goes off target and Exeter have it.


Dogged defence

It is all Exeter in the opening stages, and Ben Youngs makes a good tackle to shut down Cordero on the of the 22 left. Tigers tackle tenaciously and force the holding-on penalty for Ford to kick to halfway.


Welcome Will!

Will Spencer announces his debut at Tigers with a huge tackle on Don Armand. However, Jonny May is whistled for tackling Santiago Cordero in the air as he jumped to reach a pass.


Early penalty

Exeter secure their ball and make ground down the left, where Telusa Veainu is pinged. Gareth Steenson finds touch with his penalty but Tigers strike a blow by pinching the lineout.


Early scrum

A knock-on in midfield gives us the first scrum of the season after the first minute. Exeter have the put-in.


We're off

A blast on his whistle from referee Wayne Barnes and George Ford gets the season underway.


Cheers for the Chiefs

A cracking noise around Sandy Park as Exeter, in their black shirts, take to the field. Kick-off on the new Gallagher Premiership season is moments away.


Here come the boys

Led out by captain Tom Youngs, Tigers take to the field in their new alternate kit. They will be attacking from right to left in the first half.


Weather update

Beautiful late summer conditions in Exeter for this afternoon's game. Sunny intervals, 20C and a bit of a breeze blowing down the ground.


Tough start in the South West

Welcome to Sandy Park for Tigers' opening game of the Gallagher Premiership. Tigers take on Exeter Chiefs, who finished top of the table but lost the play-off final to Saracens.


It's good to be back!

The waiting is over. Premiership Rugby is back and we are buzzing!

Opposition Lineup

Starting XV

Santiago Cordero
Ian Whitten
Ollie Devoto
Olly Woodburn
Nic White
Alec Hepburn
Jack Yeandle
Tomas Francis
Sam Skinner
Don Armand
Matt Kvesic
Sam Simmonds


Luke Cowan-Dickie
Greg Holmes
Harry Williams
Sean Lonsdale
Stu Townsend
Joe Simmonds
Henry Slade

Team news: Gallagher Premiership Round 1

Leicester Tigers hand debuts to five new arrivals in the opening round of the Gallagher Premiership season at Exeter Chiefs on Saturday.

Will Spencer and David Denton start in the forward pack, while props David Feao and Gaston Cortes, and centre Kyle Eastmond are among the replacements for the trip to Sandy Park after summer moves to Tigers.

Australian duo Matt Toomua and Tatafu Polota-Nau return from international duty to claim places in the matchday squad. Toomua joins Manu Tuilagi in the Tigers midfield while Polota-Nau is named on the bench.

Mike Fitzgerald makes his 50th starting appearance in Premiership rugby, and Telusa Veainu makes his 50th top-flight appearance for the club.

Head coach Matt O’Connor also gives a call-up to England Under-20s wing Jordan Olowofela for the first game of the new season.

“All sorts of guys have been putting their hands up for selection during the pre-season period,” said O’Connor. “In the group we’ve got a lot of talent in the back three, options in midfield and we’ve added a lot of depth in the forwards. Everybody is going to be important across the course of the season. We have to be very close to our best there, but we look forward to the challenge.”

Tigers return to home turf against Newcastle Falcons in Round 2. Kick-off at Welford Road next Saturday is at 3.00pm and tickets are available now.

Leicester Tigers (v Exeter Chiefs, Sandy Park, Saturday 4.30pm)

15 Telusa Veainu

14 Adam Thompstone

13 Manu Tuilagi

12 Matt Toomua

11 Jonny May

10 George Ford

9 Ben Youngs

1 Greg Bateman

2 Tom Youngs (c)

3 Dan Cole

4 Mike Fitzgerald

5 Will Spencer

6 David Denton

7 Brendon O’Connor

8 Sione Kalamafoni


16 Tatafu Polota-Nau

17 David Feao

18 Gaston Cortes

19 Harry Wells

20 Mike Williams

21 Sam Harrison

22 Kyle Eastmond

23 Jordan Olowofela

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White; 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Ollie Atkins, 5 Sam Skinner, 6 Don Armand, 7 Matt Kvesic, 8 Sam Simmonds
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Toby Salmon, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Henry Slade


posteamteam namepldwdlfadifftftatblbpts
Exeter Chiefs
Exeter ChiefsEXE221705630438192895114486
Leicester Tigers
Leicester TigersLEI227015478632-15447815841
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