Aviva Premiership: Exeter Chiefs power past London Irish
Last Updated: 13/04/13 6:13pm
Exeter Chiefs boosted their hopes of Heineken Cup qualification by moving up to sixth in the Aviva Premiership table with a 27-6 win over struggling London Irish at Sandy Park.
The hosts dominated much of the first half and were 12-3 up at the break thanks to four penalties from the boot of fly-half Gareth Steenson, with the Exiles' only reply coming through a Tom Homer penalty.
Steenson added a fifth penalty early in the second half and, although his opposite number Ian Humphreys replied with one of his own, Exeter crossed the whitewash twice through wing Matt Jess and replacement Dave Ewers with Henry Slade converting the latter score.
London Irish, who have won just once on the road this season, knew a win would consign London Welsh to a quick return to RFU Championship rugby next season with three games remaining - starting with Sunday's home clash with Northampton.
The Chiefs opened the scoring after 15 minutes with Steenson, who had hooked a 35-metre kick five minutes earlier on a very heavy pitch, landed a penalty from just inside the Exiles' half.
London Irish hit back but, with a strong breeze in their faces, kicked two penalties to touch. But the Chiefs were penalised after the second lineout for not releasing at the tackle so Homer levelled the scores midway through the half.
With the visitors being forced to defend their line, some indiscipline crept into their game, which resulted in Steenson kicking three penalties in the final 10 minutes of the half to give the Chiefs a 12-3 interval lead.
Having controlled the opening 10 minutes of the second period, Steenson slotted the first points of the half with a 30-metre penalty.
Just before the hour mark, London Irish fly-half Humphreys pulled three points back for the visitors, but the Chiefs hit back immediately.
A maul drove the Exiles back 25 metres before they pulled it down illegally. With advantage being played, Exeter scrum-half Haydn Thomas fed Steenson, who flicked the ball for Jess to touch down. Steenson's touchline conversion - his second attempt after an early charge - fell short of the target.
Ewers then bulldozed his way over the line from close range for a last-minute try which was converted by replacement fly-half Slade - three minutes into his Premiership debut.