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Exeter beat struggling Newcastle to maintain top-four push

By PA
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons – Gallagher Premiership – Sandy Park

Newcastle began life under new consultant director of rugby Steve Diamond with a 25-16 defeat as Exeter maintained their push for a top-four Gallagher Premiership finish.

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The Falcons, who are bottom of the table, could have gone home with a losing bonus point if fly-half Brett Connon had not missed a penalty with the last kick of the match.

The Chiefs suffered a blow before kick-off when England back-rower Ethan Roots picked up a calf injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Jacques Vermeulen.

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Jake White previews the Bulls’ Round 12 URC face-off with the Dragons

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Jake White previews the Bulls’ Round 12 URC face-off with the Dragons

Newcastle scored a try after only 70 seconds, with winger Ben Stevenson bursting down the left flank and bouncing through a tackle by Josh Hodge to cross in the corner, with Connon converting superbly from the touchline.

A quick tap penalty saw England Under-20s number eight Greg Fisilau reply with a try for the Chiefs 12 minutes later, but Exeter immediately gave away a penalty which was slotted by Connon to extend the Falcons’ lead to five points.

Exeter dominated the rest of the half, with Newcastle’s case not helped by having back-rower Guy Pepper sin-binned for not retreating 10 metres at a quick tap penalty.

However, the only score the visitors conceded while he was off the pitch came in the most bizarre circumstances.

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Exeter’s Welsh centre Joe Hawkins sent a cross-field kick towards the corner, where Newcastle full-back Elliott Obatoyinbo dived to brilliantly keep the ball in play. He crashed into the advertising hoardings, injuring himself, leaving Zack Wimbush to stroll up and dot the ball down to level it up at 10-10.

The Chiefs’ forwards controlled the latter stages of the half, with Australia prop Scott Sio and lock Rusi Tuima both powering over from close range in the space of seven minutes to secure the try-scoring bonus point, with Josh Hodge adding a conversion.

Fixture
Gallagher Premiership
Exeter Chiefs
25 - 16
Full-time
Newcastle
All Stats and Data

Connon added another penalty in between those scores, but the visitors entered the break facing an uphill battle at 22-13 down.

However, they started the second half in bright fashion, and after being awarded a succession of penalties, Connon kicked three more points to put them within six of their hosts.

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Entertainment was at a premium as the weather conditions deteriorated, but Newcastle remained firmly in the game and Chiefs appeared in danger of sleep-walking their way into a shock defeat.

When they did muster a sustained attack, Newcastle’s defence held firm, until they lost replacement hooker Brian Byrne to a yellow card for repeated team infringements – there were 27 penalties awarded in the match.

With the try bonus point already secured, the Chiefs opted for the kick at goal, and former Falcon Hodge – having hit the upright with an earlier 40-metre effort – slotted the three points to put Exeter two scores clear and secure victory.

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