Tigers survive Exeter scare
Reigning Aviva Premiership champions Leicester were given a huge fright by new boys Exeter but eventually prevailed 37-27.
Last Updated: 12/09/10 12:46pm
Reigning Aviva Premiership champions Leicester were given a huge fright by new boys Exeter but eventually prevailed 37-27 at Welford Road.
The Tigers were 11 points behind with 16 minutes remaining but tries from Scott Hamilton and Dan Hipkiss turned the match around late on.
Even after winning their first ever top-flight fixture against Gloucester last weekend, the Chiefs were huge underdogs as they faced a Leicester side that had only lost once in 34 home games.
But Rob Baxter's side defied the odds and were more than a match for their big-name opponents for the majority of the clash until the Tigers' late rally finally overpowered them.
All seemed to be going to plan when skipper Geordan Murphy claimed the first try of the match for the Tigers as an intense period of pressure paid off.
After gaining a penalty, Leicester opted to take a scrum rather than a shot at goal and number eight Thomas Waldrom sucked in the defence before some neat handling put Murphy over the try-line and Jeremy Staunton added the extras.
Fly-half Gareth Steenson had earlier given the visitors a third-minute lead and cut the deficit to one with another penalty after as Exeter were rewarded for patient build-up play.
Lock James Hanks returned after earlier being shown the yellow card and the Chiefs regrouped to stun Welford Road with a well-worked score.
Foster broke free down the right after a pass from Steenson before playing an inside ball to centre Phil Dollman, who evaded the cover defence to touch down behind the posts.
The errors continued to pile up for the champions as passes went astray and line-outs broke down, with Exeter making them pay with another excellent try from Dollman.
Luke Arscott provide the spark as he broke through a weak tackle to send Dollman over, with Steenson converting to give the Premiership new boys a shock 20-7 lead after just 33 minutes.
Staunton managed to reduce the gap with a penalty on the stroke of half-time but the Tigers left the field to boos from a section of their own fans at the interval.
Steenson missed a penalty attempt for the first time this season early in the second half and the hosts continued to chip away at the deficit as Staunton landed two three-pointers of his own.
But Exeter refused to capitulate under the pressure and seemed to take a huge step towards victory as Mark Foster dummied through some weak blindside defence to cross in the corner.
Steenson's excellent conversion from the touchline made it 27-16 with just 23 minutes to play, but Leicester then showed their championship pedigree with a breathless fightback.
First Hamilton crashed over the line in the 64th minute after ignoring the help of replacement prop Marcos Ayerza outside him, and Staunton slotted over the conversion to make it a four-point deficit.
Flanker Tom Croft, returning from injury off the bench, then galloped down the right and lovely hands from Waldrom on the opposite flank allowed Hipkiss to go over untouched.
Exeter were sent reeling by the double blow and a string of powerful scrums from Leicester saw referee Dean Richards award a penalty try right at the death to kill the game off and secure a bonus point for the hosts.