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Report | Last-minute loss for Tigers at Exeter

Figure image

Leicester Tigers were denied opening-day victory by a last-minute try from Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Tigers had fought their way back from 17-6 down at half-time to lead and had shut out their hosts for almost the entire 40 remaining minutes until Patrick Schickerling finally forced his way over the line for the decisive score and a 24-20 Chiefs win in Round 1 of the Gallagher Premiership season.

It denied Tigers a winning start and a hat-trick of opening-day wins after success in each of the last two years.

The weekend’s games were only confirmed on Friday afternoon following the passing of Her Majesty The Queen, and a period of silent tribute was observed ahead of kick-off, followed by singing of God Save The King and a prayer from the Exeter club chaplain.

After a tight opening quarter, Exeter went 10-3 in front with a penalty try which also saw Freddie Burns sin-binned, and they added their second try just before the break to move into a 14-point lead.

A try from Hanro Liebenberg, in his first game as club captain, got Tigers back into contention in the third-quarter and when Charlie Clare added a second the visitors were finally in front on the four mark.

But they spent a large chunk of the closing quarter in defence, holding up their rivals three times on the tryline before the final, winning score.

Jimmy Gopperth and prop James Cronin made their first league appearances for Tigers, with three more debutants among the replacements, while Exeter also welcomed summer arrivals including lock Jack Dunne and centre Solomone Kata.

Leicester’s victory at Sandy Park last March was a first at the venue since 2014 and also Exeter’s only home defeat in Premiership Rugby in the last seven months.

With Tigers in their new change colours of red and white, Chiefs kicked off and held on to the ball through several phases before being awarded a penalty and, just two minutes into the new season, Joe Simmonds gave them a 3-0 lead.

The next 10 minutes were played close to halfway, until Tommy Reffell won a penalty on the floor and Burns kicked the scores level.

An offside penalty near halfway gave Simmonds the chance to take play down the right touchline for Exeter, but Harry Wells stayed on the ball at the lineout to smother the danger.

A charged-down crosskick led to a key moment with 20 minutes played, as Burns raced back to beat Harvey Skinner to his chip ahead. He got there first but was ruled to have played the ball illegally in-goal and was yellow-carded by referee Christophe Ridley who also awarded the penalty try, deciding the Exeter player would have scored if Tigers’ fly-half had not intervened.

Chris Ashton was hurt in challenging for a high ball, but when he got back to his feet, the referee had already awarded an Exeter penalty on halfway. They were unable to progress at their resulting lineout, though, with Tigers clearing lines with a penalty of their own.

Eli Snyman got a big right hand to Exeter lineout ball to stall the home team, but when Tigers were penalised inside the opposition half, skipper Liebenberg stayed firm at a breakdown to benefit from the whistle.

Tigers enjoyed a good spell of possession in attack but when they were pushed back, Gopperth lined up a drop-goal attempt, only to see it go wide of the left post.

With Burns back on the field, Hosea Saumaki was not far from adding a score as he raced down the left but saw just to see the ball bounce out of his grasp.

There were just two minutes left in the opening half when Olly Woodburn collided with Burns as they chased high ball, and the fly-half was still on the floor when Exeter created a second try, building momentum until Kata ran in to score on the right. Simmonds added the conversion to make it 17-6 at half-time.

Phil Cokanasiga replaced Burns for the star of the second half, with Gopperth moving to 10 in place of Burns.

Tigers were marched back at a penalty on halfway and whistled again just five metres out but responded with a crunching tackle from Cronin on the goalline as Townsend took the tap and which also knocked ball out of his hands.

A bout of kicking from both teams called for patience, but when Dan Cole led the kickchase and forced an error from Townsend, skipper Liebenberg was there to capitalise and score the Tigers’ first try of the season. Gopperth added his first points for the club with the conversion.

Olly Cracknell was introduced to the forward pack on 55 minutes, just as the referee blew against the hosts in defence and Gopperth put the kick into the right-hand corner. Although they were stopped at source, another penalty followed and Liebenberg signalled for the set-piece.

He was rewarded with a drive for the line which brought a try from hooker Clare as the entire pack made it across the line with the referee again signalling a penalty against the hosts to put Tigers in front for the first time at 17-18.

Gopperth added the conversion for a three-point lead but within minutes Exeter thought they’d scored through prop Schickerling, only for it to be denied for a knock-on almost on the tryline. Another TMO intervention also addressed a high tackle in defence and play started again with a penalty to the hosts.

They attacked the line through the forwards but were held up not once but twice as Tigers’ defence got through their work.

Waves of Exeter possession flowed forward and, when a knock-on in the tackle produced a Chiefs scrum, replays came back for a yellow card for a high clear-out, with prop Alec Hepburn the man leaving the field.

Tigers again stood up to phases of attack, knocking ball loose in contact, only for play to come back for a penalty and this time, for a third time, they were held up over the tryline.

Play remained in the Tigers half until Exeter were forced into an error and, from a scrum, Kini Murimurivalu made 50 metres up the touchline, though Harry Potter was unfortunate when Cokanasiga’s chip on the opposite flank bounced just beyond him.

George Martin stretched to bring down Facundo Cordero just as Exeter looked to load their right flank and the tackle forced a knock-on just as Hepburn prepared to return to their front row after the card. A free-kick at the scrum gave Gopperth a chance to boot clear again, followed by the charging red line of his colleagues.

An offside penalty with less than a minute left on the clock provided one final opportunity, Exeter kicking to the right, and this time, they kept control until finally Schickerling got beyond the chalk and Simmonds kicked the conversion to bring the game to a close.

Match Details

HT ScoreHalf Time Score

EXE 17-6 LEI

FT ScoreFull Time Score

EXE 24-20 LEI

Attendance

Not available

Referee

Christophe Ridley

Exeter Chiefs
Exeter Chiefs
24

Full Time

Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
20
Exeter Chiefs
P
T
C
T
C
T
C
KOHTFT
Leicester Tigers
P
P
T
C
T
C

Match Stats

Exeter Chiefs
Leicester Tigers
Possession
57%
43%
Territory
50%
50%
Penalties Conceded
11
11
Yellow Cards
1
1
Red Cards
0
0
Tackles Won
93/104 89%
215/241 89%
Scrums Won
3/3 100%
5/5 100%
Lineouts Won
10/12 83%
12/15 80%

Player Stats

Exeter Chiefs
Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
TCDP
15Chris Ashton
14Harry Potter
13Matt Scott
12Jimmy Gopperth2C
11Hosea Saumaki
10Freddie Burns2P
9Ben Youngs
1James Cronin
2Charlie Clare1T
3Dan Cole
4Harry Wells
5Eli Snyman
6George Martin
7Tommy Reffell
8Hanro Liebenberg1T
16Joe Taufete'e
17Francois van Wyk
18Will Hurd
19Cameron Henderson
20Olly Cracknell
21Richard Wigglesworth
22Phil Cokanasiga
23Kini Murimurivalu

Commentary

FULL TIME

Tigers denied by a last-minute score which gives Exeter a 24-20 win on opening day at Sandy Park despite immense defence for a long spell.

Simmonds adds the conversion following the Schickerling score and Exeter take a 24-20 lead.

Exeter have scored with winner with the clock on 80 minutes. 

76

Attendance is 9,749 in the sunshine this afternoon.

Exeter down to 14 with yellow card for high while they play on the Tigers 5m line.

62

Exeter denied a try for a knock-on almost on the tryline. Then held up twice over the line by Tigers defence. Tigers still lead 20-17.

Gopperth makes it 20-17 to Tigers with conversion.

Try Charlie Clare, puts Tigers 18-17 in front.

Gopperth conversion makes it 17-13 to Exeter on 50mins

Hanro Liebenberg scores after the kickchase has Chiefs under pressure and Cole charges down clearance for the skipper to score.

41

Phil Cokanasiga on fir debut, Burns has gone off. Gopperth goes to 10.

HALF-TIME

Exeter Chiefs 17-6 Leicester Tigers at half-time. A penalty try and a score from Solomone Kata for the hosts. Two penalties by Freddie Burns for Tigers.

Joe Simmonds adds the conversion for a 17-6 lead for the hosts.

Solomone Kata is in for an Exeter try. 

Exeter offside in defence, Burns has the kick from 35 metres... and scores. It's been a good spell of possession for the Tigers who trail 10-6.

32

Saumaki almost there, twisting and turning on the left wing, but sees his chip ahead just bounce awkwardly away from his grasp beyond the tryline.

The extra 2 are awarded automatically for a penalty try.

And the referee awards a Penalty Try to Exeter, ruling that Skinner was going to win the race to the ball if Burns had not intervened. It's 10-3 on 20mins.

Burns is yellow-carded after referee adjudges he slapped ball into touch in-goal as Chiefs chase.

Reffell wins a penalty on the floor. Burns takes kick 35 metres out, it's 3-3.

90sec on the clock, eight phases from Exeter and they have a penalty 30 metres out. Joe Simmonds kicks... and it's 3-0.

KICK-OFF | Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers

The home team will get the action started. Tigers are in red shirts and playing left to right as we look from the dugouts. Welcome to the new season!

KICK-OFF | Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers

The home team will get the action started. Tigers are in red shirts and playing left to right as we look from the dugouts. Welcome to the new season!

KICK-OFF | Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers

The home team will get the action started. Tigers are in red shirts and playing left to right as we look from the dugouts. Welcome to the new season!

0

TRIBUTES TO HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN

All Gallagher Premiership fixtures this weekend will follow one-minute silent tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and singing of the national anthem. There is also a prayer from the Exeter Chiefs chaplain here at Sandy Park.

GettyImages-1422503600.jpg

0

WEATHER CHECK

A mixture of sunshine and clouds on the way here, but it is set fair at Sandy Park for this opening day of the season.

0

TODAY’S OPPOSITION

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Joe Simmonds, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Solomone Kata, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Stu Townsend; 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 3 Marcus Street, 4 Jack Dunne, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 Jannes Kirsten, 7 Christ Tshiunza, 8 Richard Capstick

Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 James Kenny, 18 Patrick Schickerling, 19 Ruben Van Heerden, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Rory O'Loughlin, 23 Facundo Cordero

0

HOW TIGERS LINE-UP

Starting XV: 15 Chris Ashton [12], 14 Harry Potter [41], 13 Matt Scott [47], 12 Jimmy Gopperth *, 11 Hosea Saumaki [12], 10 Freddie Burns [103], 9 Ben Youngs (vc) [282], 1 James Cronin *, 2 Charlie Clare [52], 3 Dan Cole [290], 4 Harry Wells [156], 5 Eli Snyman [20], 6 George Martin [39], 7 Tommy Reffell [78], 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c) [59]

Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e *, 17 Francois van Wyk [17], 18 Will Hurd [8], 19 Cameron Henderson [20], 20 Olly Cracknell *, 21 Richard Wigglesworth [37], 22 Phil Cokanasiga *, 23 Kini Murimurivalu [36]

0

MATCH PREVIEW | Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers

Ben Youngs says he is excited to get the ball rolling on another campaign as Leicester Tigers open the Gallagher Premiership season at Exeter Chiefs, adding: “Sandy Park is one of the toughest places in the league and it will tell us a lot about ourselves. The guys who have come in are adding to the squad, they know what we are about and they want to contribute and move the club forward.”

Head coach Steve Borthwick includes five summer signings in a squad which will be led by Hanro Liebenberg for the first time in a league game since his confirmation as club captain.

Tigers' victory at Sandy Park last March was a first at the venue since 2014 and Exeter’s only home defeat in Premiership Rugby in the last seven months.

Exeter head coach Ali Hepher said: "It's a great start, especially coming up against the champions. Steve Borthwick has done a great job over the last couple of years, turning Leicester round and into a quality side. We know they'll be a top-quality side who are hard-working, physical and who will be good around the set-piece.”

Tigers will wear the new change kit of red shirt and white shorts.

Referee is Christophe Ridley.

0

WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!

Wherever you are, you can keep up to date with the Leicester Tigers action from the Round 1 trip to Exeter Chiefs with Matchday Live on the Tigers App and website at www.leicestertigers.com. Kick-off is at 3.00pm.


Opposition Lineup

Starting XV

15
Joe Simmonds
14
Jack Nowell
13
Ian Whitten
12
Solomone Kata
11
Olly Woodburn
10
Harvey Skinner
9
Stu Townsend
1
Alec Hepburn
2
Jack Yeandle
3
Marcus Street
4
Jack Dunne
5
Jonny Gray
6
Jannes Kirsten
7
Christ Tshiunza
8
Richard Capstick

Subs

16
Jack Innard
17
James Kenny
18
Patrick Schickerling
19
Ruben van Heerden
20
Dave Ewers
21
Jack Maunder
22
Rory O'Loughlin
23
Facundo Cordero

Preview | Opening-day action in Devon

Figure image

Leicester Tigers kick off a new Gallagher Premiership season with a trip to Exeter Chiefs on Saturday afternoon.

Twelve weeks on from the 2021/22 Final at Twickenham, the Tigers match action resumes with Exeter providing the opposition in the opening game for a second successive season.

Last season kicked off with a 34-19 win over the Chiefs at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, and now Tigers travel to the South-West for the reverse fixture at Sandy Park.

In team news announced on Friday following confirmation that Premiership fixtures would go ahead on Saturday and Sunday, Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick includes five summer signings in his squad which will be led by Hanro Liebenberg for the first time since his confirmation as club captain.

Ben Youngs, starting his 17th season as a Premiership player, says he is “excited” to get the ball rolling on another campaign.

Asked about the campaign ahead, the scrum-half said: “The biggest challenge right now is going to Sandy Park and Exeter on Saturday. Going there is one of the toughest places in the league and it will tell us a lot about ourselves.

“The guys who have come in are adding to the squad, they know what we are about and they want to contribute and move the club forward.”

Exeter include England international Jack Nowell alongside four new signings in Jack Dunne, Solomone Kata, Rory O'Loughlin and Ruben van Heerden.

Their head coach Ali Hepher said this week: "When the fixtures come out, you're always excited for that first game. It's a great start, especially coming up against the champions.

“Steve Borthwick has done a great job over the last couple of years, turning Leicester round and into a quality side. We know they'll be a top-quality side who are hard-working, physical and who will be good around the set-piece.

"They are all areas you associate with Leicester, so we know we will have to be top drawer at the weekend. Equally, it's an opportunity for us to show what we are about.

"We've worked the guys hard. Equally, they have worked hard and responded with a real level of effort.”

Premiership Rugby have confirmed that there will be a one-minute silent tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II ahead of kick-off in each of the fixtures this weekend. Players and coaches will be invited to wear black armbands.

Leicester’s victory at Sandy Park last March was a first at the venue since 2014 and also Exeter’s only home defeat in Premiership Rugby in the last seven months.

Tigers have won three of their last seven away games in Premiership action and have won on the opening weekend for the past two seasons.

The visitors will wear the club’s new change kit of red shirt and white shorts at Sandy Park this weekend.

Referee is Christophe Ridley, in charge of a top-flight fixture for a 58th time.

There is live coverage with BT Sport, or follow the updates on Matchday Live on the Tigers website and app, with full report and reaction afterwards.

Round 1 in full:

Friday – Bristol Rugby v Bath Rugby (now Saturday 5.30pm), Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints (postponed)
Saturday – Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers (3.00pm), Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins (3.00pm), London Irish v Worcester Warriors (3.00pm), Bristol Bears v Bath Rugby (5.30pm)
Sunday – Gloucester Rugby v Wasps (3.00pm)

posteamteam namepldwdlfadifftftatblbpts
1
Exeter Chiefs
Exeter ChiefsEXE3300103832014112014
3
Leicester Tigers
Leicester TigersLEI32019766311392111
Form Guide
Form
WWWWW
Last Match
Beat Bristol Bears 35-20
Past Meeting
Won 24-20
Form
Last Match
Past Meeting
Form
LWLWW
Last Match
Beat Wasps 38-17
Past Meeting
Lost 20-24

Matchday Live

Exeter Chiefs24
Exeter Chiefs
Leicester Tigers20
Leicester Tigers
Full Time