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Record Sandy Park crowd witness Exeter see off Leicester

By PA
EXETER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23: Jasper Wiese of Leicester Tigers held up by Lewis Pearson of Exeter Chiefs during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park on December 23, 2023 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Exeter maintained their superb home form as they defeated Leicester 29-10 in front of a record crowd at Sandy Park.

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An attendance of exactly 15,000 witnessed the Chiefs end their 2023 home campaign in style with a bonus-point win as they stretched their unbeaten Sandy Park run in all competitions to 23 matches, spanning a period of 61 weeks.

It took the Tigers a long time to find their way into the game, despite many of their internationals returning to duty.

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Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White previews the URC Round Eight encounter with the Stormers

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Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White previews the URC Round Eight encounter with the Stormers

They trailed 24-0 early in the second half and, when they finally did fight back, they had left themselves too big a mountain to climb.

Chiefs centre Henry Slade had another an excellent game, once more staking his claim for an England recall for the upcoming Six Nations.

Exeter got off to a dream start with a close-range try after only seven minutes from South African flanker Jacques Vermeulen following a period of intense pressure on the Tigers line, with Slade converting.

Four minutes later they were awarded a penalty try when George Martin was adjudged to have tackled Rory O’Loughlin early to prevent him taking a try-scoring pass from Tom Wyatt and the lead was suddenly 14-0.

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The advantage could have been increased even further if Lewis Pearson had not opted to go for glory himself, with two players outside him.

That passage of play saw Chiefs prop Scott Sio and Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs limp off, soon to be joined by Leicester winger Josh Bassett.

Even referee Tom Foley needed some first-half treatment after getting smacked in the ribs when he inadvertently got in the way of a Leicester attacker.

Chiefs had a try by Jack Yeandle ruled out for a double movement in the 35th minute, but they rammed home their first-half superiority a minute before the break when Slade latched on to a very loose pass from World Cup winner Handre Pollard, who had a first half to forget, and raced 40 metres to score under the posts, leaving the simplest of conversions for a 21-0 interval lead.

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Slade put the Chiefs four scores clear 11 minutes into the second half with a penalty as the Tigers collapsed a scrum.

Leicester finally got their first points on the board in the 56th minute when England winger Anthony Watson finished off in the right-hand corner after they had camped on the home line following an initial break by Jasper Wiese. Pollard badly pulled the conversion attempt.

More sustained try-line pressure created a walk-in score for full-back Freddie Steward after former Chiefs centre Solomone Kata’s long pass as Tigers continued their fightback.

However, the conversion was again crucially missed, this time by Jamie Shillcock, leaving them still 14 points adrift.

Exeter were not satisfied with just the win, though, and replacement lock Rusi Tuima forced his way over with the clock in the red to claim the bonus point and provide the perfect finish for the home supporters.

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Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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