Leinster 22-17 Exeter: Chiefs denied in Champions Cup as Leinster rally
Last Updated: 16/12/17 7:31pm
Leinster completed a Champions Cup double over Exeter as they ground out a 22-17 victory at the Aviva Stadium.
The Chiefs looked on course to avenge last weekend's 18-8 home defeat by the Irish province when they established a 17-3 lead in the first half through tries from Sam Skinner and Luke Cowan-Dickie.
But Leinster overcame the early loss of Johnny Sexton due to a head injury and two yellow cards to battle their way back into the game and notch their fourth successive win in Pool 3 thanks to a 66th-minute try from Luke McGrath.
Leinster are now on the brink of the quarter-finals with 18 points, five ahead of Montpellier, who defeated Glasgow Warriors earlier in the day.
Aviva Premiership champions Exeter now face an uphill battle to qualify for the last eight as they have only nine points after picking up a losing bonus point in Dublin.
Leinster were hit by a double blow in the early stages with Skinner crashing over for the Chiefs' opening try in the third minute and Sexton injured in a collision with Matt Kvesic.
Gareth Steenson landed the conversion for Exeter and Sexton left the field for a Head Injury Assesment, which saw him unable to return.
The Ireland international's replacement Ross Byrne then also required an HIA, although he was cleared to carry on playing as captain Isa Nacewa took over kicking duties to land a 12th-minute penalty and put Leinster on the scoreboard.
The home side suffered another setback in the 18th minute when Cian Healy saw yellow for dangerous play after a high challenge on Cowan-Dickie.
Leinster held firm with only 14 men before Steenson extended Exeter's lead with a long-range penalty in the 29th minute.
Their advantage increased to 17-3 two minutes later when Cowan-Dickie touched down after Leinster failed to cope with Exeter's maul, Steenson adding the conversion.
Leinster lock Scott Fardy saw yellow for collapsing the maul which led to the try, but the home side shrugged off his loss to remain in contention at the interval thanks to two penalties from Nacewa which reduced the deficit to 17-9.
Exeter were forced to soak up a fair amount of pressure after the restart and held firm until the 56th minute when Nacewa slotted over his fourth penalty.
Fergus McFadden thought he had crossed for a try for Leinster, but the referee ruled he had been held up and went back for an offside penalty which Nacewa landed to make it a two-point game and the momentum firmly with the hosts.
Leinster's charge continued as they took the lead for the first time two minutes later in superb style, a great break from Dan Leavy, teeing up Luke McGrath for a try under the posts which was converted by Nacewa to make it 22-17.
Exeter attempted to find a way back in the closing stages - a Skinner lineout infringement proving hugely frustrating -but Leinster held firm to seal a crucial victory.