Bristol 12-20 Exeter: Chiefs narrow gap at top of Premiership
Tries from Sam Skinner, Tom O'Flaherty and Jacques Vermeulen helped the chiefs win the battle against Bristol in their top-of-the-table clash
Last Updated: 23/04/21 10:45pm
Defending champions Exeter Chiefs narrowed the gap on Premiership leaders Bristol with a 20-12 win at Ashton Gate.
The Chiefs were in excellent form with the likes of Sam Simmonds and Johnny Gray impressing in front of British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland, while Jacques Vermeulen was once again outstanding for Exeter.
Simmonds, overlooked by England boss Eddie Jones since 2018, drove second-placed Exeter home and helped end Bristol's eight-match unbeaten Premiership run.
He suffered an early knock to his ankle but played for an hour in his final Lions audition before boss Gatland names the squad for South Africa on May 6, and it will be difficult to leave out the 26-year-old on this latest evidence.
By the time Simmonds went off, hobbling slightly, he had created Exeter's second try for wing Tom O'Flaherty and did not put a foot wrong in attack or defence.
The Chiefs also claimed a Sam Skinner touchdown and Jacques Vermeulen try, with captain Joe Simmonds kicking a conversion and penalty.
The home side conjured a fine Andy Uren try, but they had to wait until the 78th minute before breaching Exeter's defence again when wing Luke Morahan crossed and Ioan Lloyd converted as Bristol saw their advantage at the top cut to eight points
Exeter went close to a 12th-minute try following Vermeulen's surging run, but Bristol snuffed out danger before taking the lead in thrilling fashion.
Uren and Piutau had the collective vision to run at space from deep inside their own half, then Uren finished brilliantly from 30 metres out, leaving Exeter defenders trailing through his searing pace.
Max Malins missed the conversion and Exeter stormed back upfield as Sam Simmonds broke clear, but Chiefs lock Hill was tackled into touch near the corner flag.
The pressure had to tell eventually and Skinner dived over for an equalising try after relentless close-range work by Exeter's pack, making it 5-5 midway through the second quarter.
And Exeter struck again with a scintillating 31st-minute score that owed everything to quick, quality lineout ball.
Joe Simmonds found his brother Sam in midfield, and he burst clear at space before finding O'Flaherty, who finished imperiously by cutting back inside opposite number Morahan's challenge.
Simmonds converted for a seven-point advantage, then he kicked a 15-metre penalty on the stroke of half-time as Exeter ended the opening 40 minutes in charge.
Exeter struck again 15 minutes after the restart, and this time it was Vermeulen who scored, taking the Chiefs well clear and effectively finishing Bristol off.
It was Exeter at their best, back at the ground where they were crowned European champions for the first time last October, and Bristol could not hold them despite Morahan's late effort.