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Bulls too good on night where Slade red card is main talking point

By PA
(Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Exeter captain Henry Slade could miss the start of the Six Nations after he was sent off in a 39-28 Heineken Champions Cup defeat to Bulls, where a last-minute try gave the battling Chiefs a bonus point in Pretoria. England international Slade was handed his marching orders in the second half for a high tackle on Kurt-Lee Arendse, putting his participation at the beginning of this year’s Six Nations campaign – which begins next month at home to Scotland – in doubt.

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Despite the red card, Exeter finished strongly enough to stay above their opponents in the table with a home game against Castres to come. It was 20-year-old Welsh lock Dafydd Jenkins who forced his way over in the final seconds for that fourth Exeter try, though the home side scored six on their way to a comfortable victory.

Exeter had started strongly in the altitude of Loftus Versfeld, but a lack of discipline allowed the home side to open the scoring from a tap penalty under the posts which saw number eight Elrigh Louw barge over from short range before Chris Smith converted.

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Exeter hit straight back with centre Slade sending out a superb pass to full-back Josh Hodge which cut out the blitzing David Kriel. Hodge had a bit to do but found the open spaces to race 40 yards to score under the posts with Joe Simmons converting.

The Bulls were obviously taking notes because when replacement hooker Bismarck Du Plessis earned a turnover, they too sent out a pass to their full-back which cut out the charging defence. Arendse showed his pace to race clear, centre Wandisile Simelane taking the ball on and passing back inside for Kriel to get the try.

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When in doubt, Exeter can always rely on the lineout drive. A scrum penalty gave them the chance of a five-metre lineout and the backs joined the forwards in the drive to the line, with centre Solomone Kata getting the score. Just before half-time, the Bulls got their second try from a tap penalty under the posts and this time it was second row Ruan Vermaak who charged over.

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They extended their lead shortly afterwards, Simelane fly-hacking ahead and taking advantage of a fortunate bounce to regather and score his first try for the Bulls. The pace of the game even got to referee Mathieu Raynal, who departed with a hamstring injury and was replaced by touch judge Thomas Charabas.

His first action was a scrum penalty against Exeter and Bulls hooker Johan Grobbelaar went over from the lineout drive. Charabas’ second major decision was the red card for Exeter skipper Slade.

The spirit of 14-man Exeter was shown by Jannes Kirsten going over for a try – as Harvey Skinner added the extras – before Simelane sealed the result with an interception try. But that set up the grandstand finish with the visitors pushing for the bonus-point try and eventually getting it at the end through Jenkins.

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