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Exeter battle past struggling Newcastle to keep up play-off push

By PA
Logovi’i Mulipola of Newcastle Falcons cuts a dejected figure following the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Exeter Chiefs and Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park on March 11, 2023 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Exeter kept up their hopes of an end of season Premiership play-off spot with a bonus-point 24-5 victory over Newcastle in difficult conditions at Sandy Park.

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Chiefs needed a response after last week’s insipid display in a 40-5 defeat to Harlequins at Twickenham, but it took some time coming as Falcons were the better side for the first hour before the hosts finally turned the screw.

Dan Frost, Jack Nowell and Sam Simmonds all crossed for Exeter, while they also awarded a penalty try and Harvey Skinner kicked a conversion as they moved up to fourth in the table.

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Mateo Carreras scored Newcastle’s try but they will rue their failure to turn plentiful possession into points and to take advantage of two opponents being sent to the sin-bin.

As a result they remain level on points with Bath at the bottom of the Premiership table level with four games remaining.

Newcastle had the first opportunity for points when they turned down a simple penalty in favour of an attacking line-out but it proved the wrong call as they lost possession.

However, playing with the advantage of a keen wind, Falcons kept their opponents firmly penned in their own half with Exeter not helping their cause by conceding seven penalties in the first 20 minutes.

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Handling errors from Matias Moroni and Callum Chick ended promising moves so Newcastle could not capitalise and there was no score at the end of a very poor first quarter.

Eventually Newcastle’s dominance was rewarded when half-backs Brett Connon and Michael Young combined to send the league’s top try-scorer Carreras over for his 12th of the season.

Exeter responded when they took the opportunity of the restart to reach the opposition 22 for the first time in the match and were soon rewarded when Frost finished off a driving line-out.

The home side suffered a double blow after 37 minutes when first Ian Whitten was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on before influential flanker Jacques Vermeulen was helped off with a leg injury.

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After the restart, Vermeulen’s replacement Aidon Davis was sin-binned for a high tackle with Whitten returning at the same time to stop Exeter going down to 13.

Davis was still absent when Exeter took the lead for the first time. Their forwards conjured up a period of pressure and when the visitors infringed, Nowell took the penalty quickly to dart over.

Davis returned in time to see his side pick up a penalty try for a collapsed maul with Newcastle flanker Chick yellow-carded to put an end to their chances of an upset.

In Chick’s absence, Simmonds crashed over for the bonus-point try but Chiefs will need to improve to secure a play-off spot.

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