James Stokes’ try just before half time proved to be the decisive score in the match
|London Irish: (18) 18|
|Tries: Cornish, Stokes Cons: Jackson Pens: Jackson 2|
|Exeter: (14) 14|
|Tries: Woodburn, Schickerling Cons: J Simmonds 2|
London Irish came from behind to beat Exeter and record their first league double over the Chiefs in 11 years.
Exeter led 14-0 after 20 minutes thanks to tries from Olly Woodburn and prop Patrick Schickerling.
But Matt Cornish went over and James Stokes added a try on the stroke of half time as the hosts began to take command and led at the break.
Irish had the better of the second half but could not extend the lead as Paddy Jackson missed a late penalty.
The win saw Irish move above Exeter and into sixth place in the Premiership as the Chiefs, who have finished in the top two in the last six Premiership seasons, slip further away from the play-off places.
Joe Simmonds’ excellent break set up the field position for Woodburn to go over under the posts a few phases later for a fifth-minute lead before a well-executed 50-22 from the Chiefs fly-half saw Exeter pressurise Irish and force a tap penalty which allowed Schickerling to score his first try for the club.
But Irish began to hit their straps as Cornish forced his way over after pressure on the Exeter line and Jackson added two penalties.
Exeter had a chance of a third try shortly before the break but infringed and the Exiles were able to relieve the pressure before going up the other end and scoring when Stokes got on the end of a Ben Loader pass to dive into the right corner.
Irish also began the second half strongly and Exeter did well to keep the hosts out with some impressive defence.
The Exiles continued to turn the screw on the Exeter pack with an hour gone as the Chiefs conceded a host of penalties close to their line, but Irish failed to convert their territorial advantage.
Exeter had a great period of pressure with 10 minutes left but knocked on inside the Irish 22 – and Jackson missed a penalty with the final kick of the game in a scoreless second half.
London Irish head coach Les Kiss told BBC Radio London:
“I thought both teams showed immense character really, both teams had a lot of possession in that second half, but the defence was awesome on both sides, both teams just couldn’t nail the opportunities that they tried to create.
“We missed a couple of goals as well, which didn’t help, but overall to go 14-0 down and then come back and do that it’s a pretty good effort.
“It’s a testament to the mindset that the blokes are building in terms of how they go about their game. You’re 14-0 down, you can can go into your shell, we’re learning about what it takes to just stick to the plan and back ourselves and back what we can do.
“I thought both teams threw everything at each other and thankfully we were out in front.”
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Radio Devon:
“It seems incredible that no points got scored in the second half, particularly against us considering the amount of territory we were having to fight against.
“The errors are coming just too often and that’s breaking up any continuity we’ve got in the game and lack of continuity kills us as a side.
“When you’re losing possession and defending you will be under a bit more pressure penalty-wise because you’re defending, but also we kind of got the wrong side of the tackle area a bit too often.
“Things rolled up against us, and that’s the tough thing, you’ve got to fight to be on the other side of things and make things roll against the opposition and we weren’t capable of doing that today.”
London Irish: Stokes; Loader, Rona, Van Rensburg, Cinti; Jackson, Phipps; Goodrick-Clarke, Cornish, Hoskins, Simmons, Coleman, Rogerson (capt), Pearson, O’Brien.
Replacements: Willemse, Gigena, Van der Merwe, Munga, Cracknell, Martin Gonzalez, O’Sullivan, Rowe.
Exeter: Hogg; Woodburn, Whitten, H Skinner, O’Flaherty; J Simmonds (capt), J Maunder; Kenny, Innard, Schickerling, Gray, S Skinner, Ewers, Kirsten, Armand.
Replacements: Yeandle, Keast, Iosefa-Scott, Jenkins, Grondona, S Maunder, O’Brien, Hodge.
Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU).