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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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Ali Hepher insists there was 'nothing lucky' about Exeter's last-gasp win

By PA
Exeter Chiefs celebrate as Patrick Shickerling scores a last minute, match winning try during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park on September 10, 2022 in Exeter, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Exeter head coach Ali Hepher believed his side deserved to win a compelling contest against Leicester but they had to rely on a last-minute converted try from replacement prop Patrick Schickerling to record a thrilling 24-20 win over the reigning champions at Sandy Park.

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Exeter appeared in control when they led 17-6 after 50 minutes but they then conceded 14 points to trail before a commanding performance in the final quarter saw them claim a morale-boosting victory.

Solomone Kata was the other tryscorer for Chiefs. There was also a penalty try awarded, with Joe Simmonds kicking a penalty and two conversions.

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Hanro Liebenberg and Charlie Clare scored Leicester’s tries, both of which Jimmy Gopperth converted. Freddie Burns added two penalties.

Hepher said: “There was nothing lucky with the win as I thought we were in control for most of that match.

“In that final quarter, we had three hold-ups over the line, a disallowed try, and when the yellow card came for Alec Hepburn, I thought we were up against it.

“However, we kept going at them and got our reward but it was a game we would have lost last year.

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“Last season we didn’t have a lot of luck, possibly because we didn’t work hard enough, but we’ve had a reset and the bonding process kicked in during that final quarter.

“We made a couple of errors and they punished us as Leicester always do, for they are a resilient side and were well on their way to winning that.”

Exeter were without a number of leading players but Hepher reported that many will be back in the near future.

“We are close with Luke (Cowan-Dickie), Hoggy (Stuart Hogg), Henry Slade and Josh Hodge but Sam Simmonds is further back.”

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Leicester’s head coach Steve Borthwick was disappointed that his side lost their opening fixture.

He said: “The boys are gutted to lose in the last play but we gave them one too many opportunities.

“There were a lot of positives to take from the game as everyone worked exceptionally hard for the club.

“Exeter came out with a specific plan and executed it very well but we adapted by making a few tweaks to be leading on the scoreboard but we missed a few crucial opportunities.

“Going down to 14 with a yellow card and losing our fly-half Freddie Burns at half-time to a failed assessment didn’t help.”

Leicester captain Liebenberg said: “We started slowly but really bounced back, although it’s hard chasing the game against a very physical pack like Exeter.

“In the first half, we lost the kicking battle and then we had to make a lot of tackles but the boys’ defence was outstanding.”

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