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A last-minute try sees reigning champions Leicester lose at Exeter

By PA
(Photo by PA)

Exeter prop Patrick Schickerling scored a last-minute try to send reigning champions Leicester to an opening-day defeat in the Gallagher Premiership. In a hugely competitive tussle, a draw would have been a fair result but Schickerling’s winner rewarded a strong last 20 minutes from Exeter, who picked up a morale-boosting 24-20 victory after last season’s disappointing seventh-placed finish.

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Solomone Kata was the other try-scorer for Chiefs and there was also a penalty try awarded, with Joe Simmonds kicking a penalty and two conversions. Hanro Liebenberg and Charlie Clare scored Leicester’s tries, both of which Jimmy Gopperth converted. Freddie Burns added two penalties.

Exeter took an early lead with a third-minute penalty from Simmonds but that was soon nullified by one from Burns. The two penalties were the only scores of a forgettable first period with both sets of half-backs content to launch kicks skywards at every opportunity.

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Neither side remotely threatened the try line until a kick from Leicester’s new recruit Gopperth was charged down by Harvey Skinner, who appeared to be winning the race to touch down.

Burns raced back in an attempt to save the day but, after diving, he only succeeded in deliberately knocking the ball over the dead ball line. A penalty try was awarded with Burns collecting a yellow card.

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Burns returned from the sin bin with no damage done to the scoreboard but in his absence, Tigers should have reduced the arrears. They won a penalty 15 metres out and straight in front of the posts but Ben Youngs chose to take a quick tap and the chance was lost. Leicester then had two more scoring chances in quick succession. First, Gopperth missed with a drop goal attempt before Hosea Saumaki narrowly failed with a kick and chase but the dead ball line foiled him.

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Burns rewarded the visitors’ pressure with a second penalty but Chiefs extended their advantage when Kata raced over, with a conversion from Simmonds leaving his side with a 17-6 interval lead. Leicester lost Burns at half-time to a head injury assessment (HIA) with Phil Cokanasiga replacing him and Gopperth switching to fly-half.

They looked up against it but ten minutes into the second half they were gifted a try. Simmonds had plenty of time to clear his lines but opted for a delicate chip, only for Dan Cole to charge it down with Liebenberg on hand to pick up the rebound and score.

That was the precursor for Tigers to dominate the next ten minutes. They turned down two kickable penalties in favour of attacking lineouts and were rewarded when Clare crashed over. Exeter immediately stormed back and replacement prop Schickerling was denied a try by a knock-on but they continued to pour pressure on their opponents.

Twice they were held up over the line but they suffered a blow when Alec Hepburn was yellow-carded for a high tackle. The decision looked to be crucial but Hepburn returned just in time to see Schickerling crash over for the winner.

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