Bristol 17-41 Exeter: Chiefs cruise at Ashton Gate
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 23/09/16 10:28pm
Bristol slipped to a fourth successive Aviva Premiership defeat as a 41-17 reverse against Exeter underlined the huge task facing Andy Robinson's team to secure top-flight survival this season.
Try doubles from wing Olly Woodburn and No 8 Thomas Waldrom - plus a late Sam Hill touchdown - meant the Chiefs were always in charge at Ashton Gate, with a second bonus-point win in seven days seeing them climb to fourth place.
Fly-half Gareth Steenson added five conversions and two penalties and although Bristol showed glimpses of quality - underlined when full-back Jordan Williams, hooker Ross McMillan and substitute Max Crumpton crossed for tries - they have shipped 164 Premiership points so far in September.
And life is not about to get any easier, with league champions Saracens due in the West Country next Friday, although rugby director Robinson is realistic enough to know that beating clubs around them in the Premiership's bottom third represent Bristol's best hope of making progress.
Exeter had far too much firepower in terms of ball-carrying threats, while skipper Steenson proved a master of playing the territory game at key moments.
The visitors were immediately into their stride as Bristol endured a miserable start, with wing Tom Varndell going off for a head injury assessment and then slick Chiefs passing allowing Woodburn a clear run to the line, with Steenson's conversion making it 7-0 after just four minutes.
Bristol responded in determined fashion, though, putting together a number of attacking phases as they looked to make a temporary one-man advantage count after Exeter wing Ian Whitten was sin-binned following an aerial challenge on his opposite number Ryan Edwards.
Referee Tom Foley made repeated big screen viewings as he consulted with the television match official Sean Davey, but a yellow card - rather than red - was probably the right call.
But Exeter were not knocked out of their stride, and a smart break by Hill ended with him delivering a scoring pass for Woodburn's second try, again converted by Steenson as they moved 14 points clear.
Bristol had to hit back immediately and they did so in style when Edwards showed a blistering turn of pace to leave Exeter's defence floundering before support runner Williams crossed to claim an outstanding try.
But any hope of a concerted Bristol fightback before half-time disappeared as Steenson kicked a penalty before he added the extras to a trademark close-range Waldrom touchdown as Exeter trooped off 24-5 in front.
And it took the Chiefs barely two minutes of the second period to claim a bonus point try after their forwards rumbled relentlessly towards Bristol's line and Waldrom applied the finishing touch.
Steenson's conversion moved Exeter past 30 points before his second penalty increased the lead, but Bristol continued battling away, and Crumpton added a third try 10 minutes from time that Williams converted from the touchline.
As against Northampton 12 days ago, Bristol's strong second-half performance offered their supporters hope for the considerable challenges ahead, but one point from a possible 20 so far tells its own story.