Fourteen-man Leicester Tigers suffered a 47-31 defeat against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday in Round 14 of the Gallagher Premiership season but scored five tries to ensure some reward from the afternoon.
It looked ominous for Tigers when, immediately after conceding the opening try, wing Kobus van Wyk was red-carded and then back-row Cyle Brink lost to injury. And Chiefs certainly showed their ruthless side with three more scores in a 10-minute spell around the half-hour .
But the short-handed Tigers countered by converting two opportunities against the defending league and European champions in the five minutes before half-time as Tomás Lavanini and Jack Van Poortvliet got on the scoresheet to cut the gap to 28-12.
Without a win at Sandy Park since 2014, Tigers conceded the first points of the second half before claiming three more tries through Matt Scott, Charlie Clare and Hanro Liebenberg, getting to within nine points of their hosts at one stage but they fell just short of adding a second bonus point from the day.
Led by Liebenberg for the first time, Tigers showed a big appetite for contact early on, making tackles to keep Chiefs on their own 10-metre line. But, after a Henry kick was charged down, they were caught offside in midfield back in their own half and forced back as Exeter went to the right-hand corner.
An error at the attacking lineout gave scrum put-in to Tigers, but exit was messy and Exeter had a second opportunity, building aggressively just short of the line before Tommy Reffell won a penalty in front of his own posts.
Chiefs were quickly back on the attack and, after Van Wyk wrapped up Jacques Vermeulen on the tryline, play came back for another penalty and this time prop Harry Williams supplied the final push for the line.
After Joe Simmonds added the conversion kick, worse followed for Tigers.
With flanker Brink lying injured from the first phase, the referee stopped play to check a tackle from Van Wyk in chasing the restart and produced a red card for contact with the head.
Brink made it back on to his feet only to leave the field, with Harry Wells his replacement.
Chiefs almost added salt to the wounds before Matt Scott made a try-saving tackle on Ollie Woodburn as he looked to reach out to score in the corner.
After surviving one forward drive for the line, Liebenberg and Guy Porter combined to clear play upfield, but Chiefs returned with interest and precision in midfield released wing Tom O’Flaherty to score to the right of the posts.
Tigers were then down to 13 men when they lost Dan Kelly to the sin-bin just short of the half-hour as he tackled Facundo Cordero on the tryline and Chiefs instantly added their third try, with Dave Ewers taking a tap and driving over.
The TMO had no clear replay to check, but referee Jack Makepeace went with his original on-field call and Simmonds added the conversion before Harvey Skinner added the bonus-point score on 32 minutes, latching on to a break by Sam Simmonds on the left.
It looked an ominous position for Tigers, 28 points down with nearly 10 minutes remaining in the half, but it was the visitors who closed with two tries of their own.
A forward pass on the Exeter 22 gave Tigers a scrum and Liebenberg charged off the base, with Freddie Steward making more gains on the right. The forwards kept the pressure on the line and eventually Lavanini burrowed his way in for his first score for the club. Henry added the conversion.
Scott squared up to the next Exeter attack, making a telling tackle on the edge of the 22 and then joined Liebenberg to hunt down Chiefs just inside their own territory with the clock already on 40.
When the referee awarded a penalty, Henry’s kick reached touch exactly on the five-metre line and, with Wells securing lineout ball, Van Poortvliet sniped over to score and make it 28-12.
Luan de Bruin replaced Leatigaga for the start of the second half and Chiefs claimed their fifth try when Sam Simmonds latched on to a chip kick from brother Joe to dot down for the 14th time in the Premiership campaign.
Tigers, though, responded with a third of their own as a 20-metre drive from a lineout on the left, with Wells steering and Charlie Clare in position, ended with Scott picking his way through for his first try of the season. Johnny McPhillips, on for Henry, added the extras with Chiefs 35-19 in front.
Chiefs replied with a series of offloads in attack which eventually found Woodburn to score their sixth of the afternoon in the right-hand corner, but this time Simmonds missed his conversion kick.
James Whitcombe replaced Joe Heyes in the front row as McPhillips restarted play and Harry Potter then made his first appearance since Round 2 as he replaced Porter in the backline.
Potter was quickly into the action with a run on the right which ended with a penalty in Tigers’ favour after Liebenberg’s intervention at the breakdown just five metres from the tryline.
It led to a fourth try for Tigers, Clare controlling play from the maul in the corner to claim a bonus point and McPhillips added the extras as the score reached 40-26.
Potter got back on the ball as Tigers looks to break own the right and then, when play switched the opposite way, Scott’s clever kick forced Chiefs to play out from their own 22.
Ben White, on at scrum-half, made a timely tackle around the ankles of Sam Simmonds as the No8 saw a chance on the left touchline and got his reward with a penalty as Tigers swarmed over the contact area.
They made the most of it too, a hanging kick upfield met by skipper Liebenberg, who fended off the final defender to run in from 35 metres and score his team’s fifth of the afternoon. Unfortunately, McPhillips’ conversion kick fell just short from the right touchline with nine points separating the teams.
Team numbers were levelled when Cordero was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on with 10 minutes remaining and McPhillips looked to make best use of the extra space with a cross-kick which just beat Steward on the right touchline.
Instead, Exeter claimed the next score, using a set-piece platform for Vermuelen to push his way over in the corner and Simmonds added his sixth conversion.
Luke Wallace won a valuable penalty on the floor on halfway with just over two minutes left on the clock and the forwards drove their rivals back again from the lineout before gaining another penalty.
The forwards pushed again before another penalty and this time got to within a metre of the line before somehow losing possession in the final action of the afternoon.
FULL-TIME | CHIEFS 47-31 TIGERS
After spending the majority of the game a man down, Tigers put four tries on the defending champions with scores from Lavanini, JVP, Clare and Liebenberg to claim the losing bonus-point.
TURNOVER WON BY CHIEFS
The maul forms and looks like it's making ground but Jack Makepeace awards the home side the penalty and that's the game.
TIGERS TRUSTING ROLLING MAUL
The line-out feeds the rolling maul as Tigers make 10 more yards up the pitch. Ben white fizzes the ball out, but Jack Makepeace pull things back for the penalty.
Another line-out attempt for Tigers and the maul forms. Exeter defend well, but an off-feet penalty coming Tigers way. McPhillips finds touch and we'll do it all again!
TIGERS WITHSTAND PRESSURE
Exeter coming back at the Leicester line and the pressure results in a penalty for the away side. McPhillips kicks into touch and the play moves into the Chiefs 22.
SIMMONDS KICKS EXTRAS
Joe Simmonds with the extras as the lead back out to 16 points with just five minutes left.
Jacques Vermeulen gets the try for Exeter following a pacey break from the line-out. The phase play finds the gap and he stretches to give Chiefs some breathing space.
TEN MINUTES ON THE CLOCK
We'll have a scrum in the middle of the park and it goes the way of the home side, as the penalty is conceded by the Leicester pack. Touch found by Simmonds and Tigers on their 22.
STEWARD MM'S FROM CROSS-FIELD KICK
Line out drive gains the yards and McPhillips sees Steward making the run down the right flank. It's just too far for the fullback but Exeter stretched again.
TIGERS SENSING MISTAKES
Tigers seeing much more of the ball than Exeter now and the ball back in Leicester hands following the restart. Some quick hands releases the backs and it's come off Cordero's hands to go forward and the TMO spots a yellow.
14 against 14 now.
MCPHILLIPS MISSES FROM TEE
McPhillips just shy of the right post as the extras go missing on this occasion.
LIEBENBERG TRY FOR TIGERS
The South African powering forward from the kick-chase and Tigers within a score away from the Exeter lead. The 14-men not giving up just yet.
THE BATTLE FOR TERRITORY
Both teams putting in the effort to try and gain territory as possession exchanges from the boots of the backline.
McPhillips wins the turnover, just as it looked like Sam Simmonds and Ollie Woodburn were away. The fly-half finds touch from the penalty and Tigers set the set-peice.
TIGERS PICKING UP PACE
The 14-men of Leicester ramping up the pressure on the home side, keeping the ball in hand and gaining the territory up the pitch.
White and McPhillips keeping things ticking over during the phases, as Dan Kelly finds touch.
Tigers edge closer to the Exeter scoreline as the 14-men keep the pressure on the hosts.
CLARE TRY FOR TIGERS
It's the tried and tested for Tigers as Charlie Clare starts and finishes off the set-piece from the the Exeter five-metre line. Bonus points gained.
TIGERS RECYCLING WELL
Leicester moving the ball nicely through the phases as we keep the possession. Kelly and Wells with drives forward and the nudge forward is pressured by the Tigers runners and win the turnover on the Chiefs 22.
Touch is found and the driving maul rolls forward... it's the same outcome...TRY FOR TIGERS.
TIGERS FIND TOUCH
Freddie Steward finds touch just when Exeter try to up the temp and a line-out in the Chiefs half. Penalty given against try-scorer Lavanini and the ball returned into Leicester terriotry.
SIMMONDS MISSES FROM TEE
Joe Simmonds with a tough kick out wide, and it's pulled left of the stick as Exeter lead by 21 points.
CHIEFS STRETCHING TIGERS
Chiefs making the man advantage count out wide as Ollie Woodburn is on the end of a quick move from the home side. Always with the man over and its another try here at Sandy Park.
Johnny McPhillips with his first points of the afternoon from the tee and Tigers make the opportunity count in the hunt for the bonus point.
SCOTT WITH TRY FOR TIGERS
Matt Scott finds the gap after some heavy work from the Tigers maul. Quick response again by the Leicester men.
EXETER LEAD EXTENDED
Joe Simmonds again with the conversion.
Johnny McPhillips comes on for Zack Henry at 10 for Tigers.
EXETER WITH EARLY SECOND HALF TRY
Sam Simmonds with the try for Exeter early on.
EXETER EDGE CLOSER
The dummy line-out drive works and releases Skinner for Exeter, Joe Simmonds back with the ball and kicks over the heads of the Tigers defence and Joe Simmonds can take the bounce.
POSSESSION EXCHANGED IN EARLY THROWS
Both teams seeing the ball in the opening moments of the second hald. Hard work from Dan Kelly winning the turn-over and Tigers keeping the pressure up.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY - C'MON TIGERS!!
Joe Simmonds restarts the action here at Sandy Park with Tigers hopes of a comeback re-ignited following two late tries in the first half.
HALF-TIME | CHIEFS 28-12 TIGERS
A relentless start by Exeter put them in the driving seat followed by a red card shown to Van Wyk for Tigers on 13 minutes.
But we're not done yet as late tries from Tomas Lavanini and Jack Van Poortvliet spark hope for the second half.
JVP DUMMY AND TRY
Jack Van Poortvliet taking the match into his own hands as a dummy pass and change of direction gives Tigers a second try of the afternoon.
Henry misses the conversion as we close the first half.
CHANCE FOR TIGERS TRY
It's the line-out maul we've come to expect as Clare finds Wells and the pack forms with Clare with the ball in hand.
JVP dummys and stretches over....
SCOTT IN RIGHT PLACE TO DEFEND
Matt Scott using his experience to null the Exeter break as again, he's able to force the error from the run from Ollie Woodburn.
Tigers win the penalty, kick for touch and Charlie Clare gets things moving once again.
Ball still in the Exeter half but back in Chiefs possession. Dave Ewers and Kirsten are halted by the Tigers pack with Wells and Lavanini making themselves known.
Penalty coming Tigers way and Henry kicks for the corner.
HENRY SUCCESSFUL FROM THE TEE
Zack Henry opens his account for the afternoon converting the points to make the scores Chiefs 28-7 Tigers.
LAVANINI WITH THE TIGERS TRY
Tomas Lavanini barrells over the line from short distance and Tigers have their first try of the game with five minutes of the first half left.
We have a Tigers scrum in the Exeter half and JVP will feed as Tigers look to see out the half on top.
Liebenberg picks and carries and breaks with the dummy, he finds Streward out wide who is held up. Penalty Tigers and the tap and go rumbles towards the line.
Liebenberg with the attempt and Tomas Lavanini has a run from short...
EXETER 28-0 TIGERS
Joe Simmonds successful from the tee again and extends Exeter's lead further.
Tigers having to work even harder from the restart with two backs now off the pitch. Exeter seeing a lot of the ball switches from left to right.
It's an offload from Sam Simmonds down the Tigers right flank and Harvey Skinner is there in support. Try for Exeter.
SIMMONDS THREE FROM THREE
Joe Simmonds kicks the points as Exeter now 21 points to no reply from the 13-men of Leicester.
EWERS TRY FOR CHIEFS
Dave Ewers barrels over for the try from the resulting play. Makepeace awards it, but they'll go upstairs for the TMO's view.
And it's given, Exeter have their try third of the day.
KELLY SHOWN YELLOW
Dan Kelly is shown a yellow card as Jack Makepeace penalises the Leicester centre for not rolling away.
BALL-IN-HAND FOR TIGERS
A chance for Tigers to recycle the ball and see the ball in hand as Reffell and Liebenberg carry the ball forward. A few phases and Tigers kick for territory and are quick to close down.
Ball now in the Chiefs half and Maunder's chance to kick. But it's loose as both teams struggle to keep the ball in hand.
TIGERS KICKING FOR TERRITORY
Tigers trusting the boot following the restart as they look to get up the Sandy Park pitch. Zack Henry and Freddie Steward seeing much of the ball, as Tigers look to find a way into the match.
CONVERSION MAKES IT 14-0
Joe Simmonds with his second conversion of the game. Tigers 14 points behind now.
Tom O'Flaherty with the second try of the day for Exeter as they extend the lead after the 20 minute mark.
Joe Simmonds kicks to touch as Tigers giveaway a penalty at the breakdown in the opponents half,. The line-out sets up the phase and the Chiefs backline quickly exchange the passes and Tom O'Flaherty runs the line...
SCRUM ON TIGERS FIVE-METRE
The Chiefs still with the pressure as JVP feeds the scrum, Guy Porter puts on the burners and kicks for territory. he chases the ball but Facundo Cordero is there to sweep up.
Lavanini with the hit in the second phase and Exeter begin to build the phases. Tigers kick clear again, and can venture into the Chiefs half.
POSSESSION IN CHIEFS FAVOUR
The Chiefs barrage continues with Tigers racking up a number of penalties in quick succession.
Jack Innard with the line-out and the mauls form. And it's fantastic work from the Tigers pack to win the penalty. A chance to catch the breath.
MATT SCOTT KEEPS TIGERS IN IT
Matt Scott is the man with the work to do, and hits Tom O'Flaherty into touch to keep Tigers in the game.
The Exeter 15 are looking to make their man advantage count, with the Tigers backline working hard to cover the pitch.
Harry Wells comes on for Cyle Brink in the back-row as Tigers forced into an early change.
KOBUS VAN WYK SHOWN RED
Kobus Van Wyk is shown a red card for a high tackle from the restart. Tigers will see out the rest of the game with 14 men. It was a clash of heads but was instigated by the winger.
TIGERS BREACH EXETER HALF
Tigers react strongly with a surge of attacks at the Exeter line from the restart. Kobus Van Wyk tackles Joe Maunder and the TMO will take a look at this closer.
SIMMONDS ADDS EXTRAS
Joe Simmonds takes the kick quickly and adds the extra points to the Exeter's lead.
TRY FOR EXETER
The try is given and Harry Williams opens the score here at Sandy Park.
TIGERS BATTLE ON OWN TOUCHLINE
The Tigers backline taking it on the chin for the time being as Exeter keep the pressure on. Kobus Van Wyk holds up the attack down the Tigers left, but following the reset it looks like the Tigers touchline has been breached.
Harry Williams looks to have burrowed over, we'll go to the TMO...
PRESSURE BACK ON FOR TIGERS
Tommy Reffell wining the plaudits on his own line, but Exeter come back at Tigers following Zack Henry's kick forward.
Simmonds and Kirsten attempt to break the Tigers line and O'Flaherty opens his legs down the right flank. Joe Simmons tries the kicks, but the referee pulls things back for the earlier penalty. Exeter find touch.
TIGERS HOLD ON
Jack Maunder ready to feed in, but the penalty is conceded before the teams engage and we'll have another scrum reset.
Maunder gets things going with Exeter 10 metres out, Ollie Devoto is the first receiver and Dave Ewers joins the attack. Exeter close to the tryline, but Tigers win the turnover thanks to the work of the Tigers back-row.
Accidental offside called by jack Makepeace and a chance for Tigers to rest. We'll have the games first scrum.
It's fed in by the young jack Van Poortvliet and Liebenberg picks up from the base as Tigers look to run the ball out. Ball is turned over and the penalty comes Exeter way.
Exeter with the early possession from the KO. The Tigers defence having to work hard in the opening moments and are penalised on their own 22 for an offside.
KICK-OFF | CHIEFS V TIGERS
We're underway at Sandy Park as Tigers in all blue with the challenge of Exeter in front of the boys.