Record crowd see Exeter sign off with statement victory over Harlequins
A record crowd of 14,876 at Sandy Park saw Exeter finish their season in style by beating Harlequins 47-38 in a 13-try thriller.
Despite being guaranteed a finishing spot of third, Quins still fielded a full-strength line-up ahead of next week’s semi-final at Saracens, but on this occasion they just lost out to determined Chiefs.
However, even with the bonus point, Exeter still finished seventh in the Premiership table, the first time they have missed out on a play-off spot since 2015.
Harlequins had the better of the early exchanges and were rewarded with the first try when a speculative kick from Smith bounced awkwardly for Evans to collect and score.
The visitors then suffered two setbacks in quick succession. First, lock Matt Symons was yellow-carded for a deliberate offside before Exeter capitalised when Gray finished off a succession of forward drives.
It only took a minute for the hosts to again fall behind when Marchant took advantage of another chip ahead to score.
Tries were coming thick and fast, with Exeter taking the lead for the first time when Hogg benefited from his side’s additional numbers to outflank the defence.
Symons returned from the sin-bin with 14 points conceded in his absence, before Chiefs temporarily lost centre Whitten to a HIA.
The home side suffered a further blow when Morris crashed over for Quins’ third try, but the wing – who had only just returned from a long injury absence – was hurt in the process and limped off.
Two minutes before the interval, Exeter drew level with an opportunist try from Simmonds, who evaded two tackles on a 25-metre run to the line to leave the score tied at 19-19 at half-time.
Exeter dominated the opening period of the second half and scored the seventh try of the game when Whitten was provided with an easy run-in.
The visitors then scored the try of the game when Smith broke from inside his 22 before combining with Lynagh, who showed the defence a clean pair of heels by racing in from halfway.
Smith was then withdrawn together with the whole of the Quins front row before Exeter scored again, with Nowell walking over to reward a period of sustained forward pressure.
Quins remained in contention when Gjaltema won the race to a kick ahead from Alex Dombrandt, but Allan missed the conversion to leave his side trailing 33-31 going into the final quarter.
More brilliance from the visitors saw Marchant give Green a 40-metre run-in, before Exeter sealed victory with a close-range try from Street and a last-minute effort from Maunder.
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