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Worcester edge nine-try thriller with Exeter

By PA
Alex Hearle celebrates scoring their side's fifth try of the game with teammate Willi Heinz of Worcester Warriors dthe Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Worcester Warriors and Exeter Chiefs at Sixways Stadium (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

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Worcester wing Alex Hearle scored a hat-trick of tries as the Warriors edged a breathtaking game of nine tries 35-31 against Exeter at Sixways.

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The bonus-point win moved Warriors off the bottom of the table as Exeter’s four- match winning run in the Premiership came to an end with the early red card for Chiefs centre Tom Hendrickson proving decisive.

Noah Heward and Harri Doel also scored tries for Warriors with Finn Smith adding five conversions.

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Santiago Grondona, Tom O’Flaherty, Jack Innard, Max Norey and Dave Ewers were Exeter’s try-scores with Joe Simmonds kicking three conversions.

After an entertaining but scoreless first 15 minutes, Exeter suffered a huge blow when Hendrickson, was sent off for a high challenge on Worcester number eight Sione Vailanu.

Minutes earlier, Hendrickson had missed a tackle on Vailanu, but this time he succeeded in stopping the Tongan powerhouse but only with his shoulder as it made contact with the back-rower’s head.

Vailanu received treatment before being led off to be permanently replaced by Jack Forsythe with Warriors immediately capitalising with a try from Hearle to reward a sharp break from Willi Heinz.

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Exeter were rattled but turned to their pack to keep them in contention. Powerful bursts from Alec Hepburn and Innard tested the home defence before Grondona crashed over from close range.

Warriors continued to offend, conceding eight penalties in the first 30 minutes, and they were made to pay when Sam Maunder made a break. The scrum-half was hauled down inches short but the ball ran loose for O’Flaherty to score.

Chiefs’ forward power looked ominous but Worcester responded when a neat round of passing provided Hearle with an easy run-in for his second try.

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Smith kicked the conversion but missed with a long-range penalty to leave the scores level at 14-14 at the interval.

Exeter began the second half strongly but were rocked when Heward intercepted five metres from his try-line to outpace Olly Woodburn on a 100-metre run to the line.

That converted try was the only score of the third quarter but despite a malfunctioning line-out they collected their third try when Innard forced his way over.

Exeter looked set for victory but Warriors introduced Doel and with his first touch, he raced away before kicking ahead and when the ball bounced unfavourably for Josh Hodge, the replacement picked up the loose ball for the bonus-point try.

Two minutes Hearle skipped over to complete his hat-trick but Exeter picked up two deserved bonus-points when forwards Norey and Ewers crashed over in quick succession to set up a tense finale.

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