Leicester Tigers were beaten by a second-half fightback from defending champions Exeter Chiefs who won 35-13 in Round 3 of the Gallagher Premiership season at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday.
Tigers went in front in the first minute with a penalty and led 13-7 at half-time thanks to Calum Green’s first try for the club following a smart lineout drive against opponents with a perfect record in the opening two rounds of the season.
That lead remained intact until the 52nd minute when Exeter finally forced their way through stubborn defence and, vitally, they added another score to lead 21-13 entering the final quarter of a physical and bruising contest.
The reigning league and European champions made sure of the win, and an extra point, with a score from Sam Simmonds entering the final 10 minutes and quickly added an opportunist fifth.
Following the Round 2 defeat at London Irish, Tigers called Nephi Leatigaga – on his 27th birthday – into the front row, while Guy Porter and Harry Simmons started on the wings after injury to Kobus van Wyk and Harry Potter.
The game was one minute old when Zack Henry gave Tigers with a penalty from 25 metres after Chiefs had been whistled at the first breakdown on a bright but cold afternoon.
And the home side saw more positives as they won more ball at a breakdown when Chiefs fielded a kick on halfway. But visiting full-back Facundo Cordero was able to clear up and Chiefs made their first venture forward after Tigers were caught offside. The defence met them strongly, though, and eventually forced a handling error.
When Tigers were called for a high tackle, Chiefs kicked play up the left and followed with another, this time trusting their set-piece by kicking into the corner. But they were met with a succession of forceful tackles on the tryline until eventually being held up as they reached for the whitewash.
The clock ticked beyond the 10-minute mark as a re-set scrum started the game, and another penalty followed before Jack Yeandle tapped to force his way over for a try, with the conversion from Joe Simmonds taking them into a 7-3 lead.
Tigers met another penalty as they wrapped up ball at a lineout and almost sensed a chance as Freddie Steward, celebrating his 20th birthday, challenged for high ball on the Chiefs 22, only for scrum-half Stu Townsend to make a timely catch.
A scrum penalty on halfway gave Exeter another opening on the right but, this time, Green managed to steal ball at the lineout.
Play remained in Tigers territory where Matt Scott and then Cyle Brink made big hits, with the South African winning a penalty as he led the counter-ruck just 15 metres from his own tryline.
When the TMO called a no-arms tackle to give Tigers a penalty, Henry slotted it to bring the gap down to a single point on 32 minutes.
Jasper Wiese showed the force of his tackling after Sam Simmonds threatened with a break through midfield and Chiefs followed up with an error with a kick from hand direct into touch from near halfway.
A maul collapse against Exeter brought another blow of the whistle and Henry judged his kick perfectly into the right-hand corner to set up a very efficient score for Green.
Throwing long, Hanro Liebenberg caught cleanly and the forward pack arrived to drive play over the line, with Green touching down. Henry’s extras made it 13-7.
Chiefs responded with a break down the right featuring Cordero and Hendrickson, but Tigers swarmed back in defence and forced a knock-on, though they were pinned back for the closing minutes of the half, showing stern resistance from a succession of set-pieces until, finally, prop Leatigaga proved immoveable at the breakdown and the penalty award allowed Tigers to bring the half to a close with a 13-7 lead.
Wiese bounced off two would-be tacklers as he fielded the second-half kick-off, but was then penalised as he reached beyond the ball at the next breakdown.
Fly-half Simmonds stuck to script as he took play into the right-hand corner, but Tigers continued to hit hard in defence, with Dan Cole involved three times in the resistance before Jaco Taute hacked loose ball clear.
Steward then stepped into the line to block a break on the Chiefs left, with the visitors staying in Tigers territory.
Another penalty kept play in the corner, and Tigers somehow kept Ollie Devoto out as he was rolled backwards as he threatened on the tryline. But Exeter had been playing with advantage and started play with a five-metre scrum in front of the posts.
The whistle blew again as Exeter maintained possession and pressure in attack, gaining three penalty awards for offside before the effort finally took its toll and flanker Jannes Kirsten dived over from a ruck. The conversion put the visitors ahead by one point at 13-14.
And the visitors quickly added another when wing Ian Whitten read a kick from Townsend to dive into their right-hand corner. The kick made it 13-21 with 22 minutes still to play.
A carry from Guy Porter and then Jordan Taufua presented a chance for Tigers but Cordero smothered Henry as he created a two-on-one in the corner and the opportunity was gone.
Harry Simmons was penalised for a trip as he chased ball on the Chiefs tryline and he was sin-binned as the referee checked with the TMO.
Tiger capitalised on a clever kick from Porter to pin Exeter back but lost Tommy Reffell to a head knock just two minutes after introducing him from the bench while keeping ball in hand among the forwards within the Chiefs 22.
When Tigers forced an error in midfield, Jaco Taute’s kick behind the Chiefs defence ha Joes Simmonds scrambling back behind his own tryline to clear up as play was concentrated in the visitors’ territory.
Aggressive defence, though, kept Leicester out until Exeter were rewarded with a scrum penalty on halfway and then another on the floor as the visitors chased the bonus-point score.
It duly arrived from the lineout drive, with Sam Simmonds taking his tally to six in three games. His brother Joe added the extras for a 28-13 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Ollie Devoto was next on the scoresheet, reading a chip from replacement Joaquin Diaz Bonilla to block and pick off the rebound and run in. Jack Walsh added the conversion in the final scoring of the game.
FULL-TIME | TIGERS 13-35 CHIEFS
Tigers are unable to build on a strong first half performance and Exeter show their worth with a 13-35 point win.
TIGERS QUICK FROM THE RESTART
Tigers looking to add some pace into the game with breaks from Steward, Bonillla and Taufua but we'll come back for the scrum.
Ben White collects, but Tigers give away the penalty and Exeter can wind down the clock now.
EXETER 35 POINTS
Young replacement fly-half Jack Walsh kicks to extend Chiefs lead to 35 points.
ANOTHER CHIEFS TRY
It's another Exeter try and Bonilla tries something, but is caught and it's an easy run in for Devoto to add another.
EXETER LEAD EXTENDED
Brother Joe adds from the boot and Exeter extend their lead further to 28 points to Tigers 13.
SAM SIMMONDS BREAKS THE LINE
It's Sam Simmonds who goes over for Exeter with less than 10 minutes to play as Chiefs secure a bonus point win.
TIGERS UNDER THE KOSCH
The Exeter pack are coming forward again and it's Hendrickson who tries to break the gain line. But the play is bought back for a Chiefs penalty, with Simmonds opting to kick for the corner.
And it's regained from the line-out and here comes Sam Simmonds...
TIGERS WORKING THROUGH THE GEARS
Tigers midfields seeing more of the ball, as Taufua is in the thick of it again. He tries some quick hands, but is caught and the scrum proceeds.
Right in front of the dugout, the ball comes out for Exeter who break with Townsend releasing O'Flaherty. Tigers need to defend now.
QUICK HANDS TURNS CHIEFS
Tigers are able to break with Taufua on the ball, a nudge through is collected by Simmonds who tries to run it out but is caught with a tap tackle. Tigers lose the breakdown, but retain possession.
Taute is caught just as he releases the pass, but Tigers still have the ball.
BREAK IN PLAY FOR HEAD INJURY
We'll have a break in play as Tom Price receives treatment. Tigers back row Tommy Reffell also joined and left the field following a coming together of heads and won't be returning following a HIA.
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TIGERS DOWN TO 14
The Tigers back-line in a man down and will have to work hard to keep the Chiefs advancements at bay.
The play resumes following a Chiefs lineout and Wigglesworth kicks clear. Liebenberg flings it to Porter, who finds touch. Tigers bundle over after Exeter try a quick throw, and it will be a Tigers ball.
Reffell receives treatment for a head injury after coming on for a sub.
SIMMONS SHOWN YELLOW
Harry Simmons is show a yellow card for a failing leg in the attempt to close down the Exeter back-line.
HENRY TRIES TO GO ALONE...
Zack Henry with the break down the Exeter left-flank and with a two-versus-one he is tagged and Tigers lose the momentum.
Taufua breaks and the play switches to the opposite flank, but Simmons catches the Exeter full-back late and the ref will take a look at this,
SIMMONDS FROM THE RIGHT
Joe Simmonds kicks from the right hand touchline and Exeter now lead with 21 points to Tigers 13.
QUICK FIRE TRY FOR CHIEFS
Ian Whitten is able to reach over and collect a high kick from Joe Simmonds and Chiefs extend their lead further.
SIMMONDS RESTORES EXETER LEAD
Joe Simmonds kicks for the extras as the lead swings back in the Chiefs favour. Tigers 13-14 Chiefs.
EXETER FINALLY BREAKDOWN TIGERS
It's Jannes Kirsten who picks up he ball from a yard out and can reach over, as Exeter reduce the gap.
TIGERS UNDER PRESSURE IN THE DEEP END
Exeter's white wave continues to creep forward to Tigers own tryline. It's another penalty, which does the job , but only delays the Exeter attack.
Dave Ewers can't break through, but Jannes Kirsten reaches through...
DUMMY MAUL FOR EXETER
Tigers react to the faked maul and are forced back to their five-metre, it looks like Devoto may be over, but he's pulled back from the line at the death.
Tigers attempts are punished with a penalty right in front of the posts, and Chiefs opt for the scrum.
Guy Porter is the man who held up Devoto with an incredible stretch.
BACK FOR THE SCRUM
Exeter break from he scrum, and the play stretches across the field but we'll go back for the penalty for Exeter.
Simmonds kicks into the corner and Chiefs set-up. We know what's coming.
PRESSURE RELEASED FOR TIGERS
Exeter forced back after the spill, but still have the ball on the right hand side. Wigglesworth clears up the spill and can slow things down for Tigers.
He kicks high, but Simmons can't reach it. Exeter come back as Armand has a go at the Tigers defence. Ben Moon wriggles free and it's almost pinched by Steward.
TIGERS UP FOR TEST
Tigers having to defend early as Chiefs have a line-out on the right flank.
The maul forms but it finds its way to Devoto. Dan Cole slams into the tackle but Sam Simmonds comes forward. It's all hands to the pump for the Tigers defence.
TIGERS FIRST OUT FOR SECOND HALF
Tigers are first out of the changing room at half-time for the second half as they look to build on a strong first-half performance.
TIGERS LEAD AT HALF-TIME
Tigers are 13 points to Exeter's 7 at the end of an enthrawling first-half at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
EXETER LOOK TO END HALF ON TOP
Tigers defence are holding on as we hit the 40 minute mark. It's scrappy, but the bodies keep stopping the advancement of the Chiefs forwards.
We restart after delay, and Yeandle attacks, but Maxwell-Keys rewards Tigers with a penalty to end the half.
CHIEFS ON THE ATTACK
Exeter come straight back following a drive from Cordero and a fantastic tap tackle is enough to kill the attack.
It's spilt by the Exeter forwards and Tigers clear, but are penalised and Simmonds eyes up the corner flag.
HENRY EXTENDS TIGERS LEAD
Zack Henry adds to Tigers lead and hit double figures with 13 points to Chiefs 7 with a few minutes of the half left.
CALUM GREEN GOES OVER!
35 mins | Calum Green is the man at the bottom holding on for the try as Tigers take the lead.
GREAT NUDGE BY HENRY
Tigers with a chance to throw in the lineout on the Chiefs five-metre and the maul forms around Calum Green who drives forward...
SIMMONDS FINDS PACE
Exeter come back at Tigers through Sam Simmonds direct drive. But Taute does well to win the turnover and Henry kicks clear.
Chiefs back inside their own half but with the ball. Some forward drives and the ball is misfired towards the Tigers left. We'll have the lineout.
HENRY FIRES THROUGH
Zack Henry kicks over from the left hand side and Tigers narrow the gap to just one point.
TIGERS HAPPY TO FIND TIME
Tigers with the chance to fire down the left flank following a penalty on Wigglesworth.
He finds the Exeter 22 and Tom Youngs fires a neat line-out, with Wiese collecting at the back.
Wells comes forward and Brink wins a penalty, but Tigers take the advantage trying a kick, but we go back and Henry eyes up the posts.
CHIEFS LOOK TO POWER THROUGH
Exeter try to power through from the line-out but Tigers withstand the pressure and Wigglesworth is able to clear up.
The Chiefs retrieve the ball from the line-out and stretch Tigers back line to the left. Cordero finds yards and Hendrickson comes forward, but their hard work is underdone with the counter ruck with Armand making the mistake.
THE SCRUM'S KEEP COMING
We'll come back for the scrum with Exeter winning the penalty, Dan Cole having a word with the referee but Joe Simmonds eyes up the Tigers left flank.
EXETER GIFTED BALL
Harry Wels can't find his teammate with the stretch and Exeter have a chance to move the ball. But it's loose again on the floor and Dan Cole is the main in the thick of it, with the Tigers medic checking in.
TIGERS TIME FOR PRESSURE
Tigers rolling move moves forward from Tom Youngs line-out and Brink sneaks around the side. Youngs takes the hit followed by Calum Green, Leatigaga then takes the ball forward, with Henry trying the nudge, but it is too far for Guy Porter on the wing.
TIGERS GAIN TERRITORY
Steward collects a return ball and Wigglesworth finds Brink, and Steward almost collects a high-ball from the scrum-half.
Exeter can come back as the phases continue to exchange. Ollie Devoto overcooks it and we'll come back.
BALL IN HAND FOR TIGERS
A chance for the Tigers midfield to get on the ball, but Steward mis-handles and Exeter have the ball. The centres exchange quick hands but are held up on the half-way by Tigers defence.
Tom O’Flaherty works some yards and Sam Simmonds tries to breakm but it held up by Jaco Taute.
Stu Townsend kicks for touch out of the ruck, and Tigers collect. Wigglesworth returns the kick for the chase.
The play resumes with another scrum after Leatigaga is looked at by the Tigers medics. And Tigers win the penalty and a chance to breath after some heavy Exeter pressure.
PRESSURE STAYS IN TIGERS HALF
The pressure remains on Tigers as Wigglesworth tries to clear his lines, but Tom O’Flaherty collects before winning the penalty for Chiefs.
After a few phases, Exeter's maul creep forward to 10-metres out, but the ball is turned over after some great work from the forwards.
SIMMONDS ADDS THE EXTRAS
Exeter extend the lead through Joe Simmonds making it Tigers 3-7 Chiefs.
Jack Yeandle gets over the line from the quick tap-and-go following the scrum restart as Exeter take the lead in the mach.
SCRUM ON THE TIGERS FIVE-METRE
The scrum goes down as Exeter win the penalty as the scrum collapses with Chiefs opting to reset.
It's a 'forwards' kind of start to the match for both teams, the ball comes out for Exeter but it's dropped by Tom O’Flaherty and Exeter have a quick tap from the restart....
EXETER EDGING FORWARD
Tigers defence is holding strong as Chiefs do what Chiefs on the five-metre line.
Dan Cole is worse for wear as the ref pauses play for him to recieve treatment.
EXETER PENALTY FOR PRESSURE
The referee's assistant spots an infringement and the play comes back for Exeter who find touch on Tigers right flank.
Chiefs fake the rolling maul and stretch the Tigers back line. Exeter advance towards the five-metre line, with Ewers and Armand held up. But Tigers hold strong.
SCRUM ON, SCRUM ON
After short delay, we're back with the first scrum of the afternoon - and it goes down, with Craig Maxwell-Keys pointing Leicester's way.
Henry launches it into the sky and Cordero collects finding Tom O’Flaherty, who is caught high by Freddie Steward and Exeter with the chance to kick for touch,
CHIEFS KEEP THE PRESSURE ON
Tom Hendrickson finding some yards as the ball comes to Dave Ewers, but it's not held and we'll have our first scrum of the afternoon,
Tigers collect the high ball from the restart and Simmons does well to collect the ball and Tigers can move the ball throught the phases.
Exeter retrieve possession following a high kick from Wigglesworth. The ball is kicked again but Simmons can't collect and it's a chance for Exeter to find touch.
EARLY PENALTY FOR TIGERS
Zack Henry with the chance to get some early points for Tigers in the early seconds from the game.
Which he does and Tigers off to a flyer in Round 3.
HERE WE GO...
As the sunsets over the Nottingham Building Society Stand, Exeter enter the field of play followed by the famous guitar riff.
It's Tom Youngs leading out the boys as Tigers line-up kicking towards the sun. It's Zack Henry to get things underway...
10 minutes until KO...
Ten minutes to go until we’re underway here at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
Both teams are finishing their warm-ups before make their way into the dressing rooms for those final words.
HOW TIGERS LINE-UP
Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick calls Nephi Leatigaga, Guy Porter and Harry Simmons into the starting line-up in the only changes to the team from the Round 2 trip to London Irish.
READY FOR ROUND 3 | KO 30 MINS AWAY
Welcome to Mattioli Woods Welford Road as Leicester Tigers welcome Exeter Chiefs for Round 3 of the Gallagher Premiership.
The two clubs have met on 62 previous occasions, with Leicester winning 38 to 20 against today’s visitors, with four games drawn.
Follow all the action right here on Matchday Live.