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Current Anglo Welsh LV= Cup title holders Exeter Chiefs kept the defence of their title alive by beating Leicester Tigers 22-30 at Welford Road on Sunday to book place in next week’s final.
The Chiefs will face Saracens at Franklin’s Gardens as they conquered the Tigers’ home patch in another impressive showing from Rob Baxter’s men.
It was a lively start to the contest as Leicester enjoyed the early running, with wing Miles Benjamin hitting a good inside line on halfway that led to prop Michele Rizzo running an even better one off scrum-half David Mele at the resulting ruck for the semi-final’s opening score.
But Exeter hit back in the thirteenth minute via their driving maul, which put them only a metre out before hooker Elvis Taione barged over. Ceri Sweeney’s conversion meant it was 7-7 at Welford Road, with the crowd enjoying the quality on show from both the outfits.
Leicester retook the lead after Sweeney was caught offside on halfway, as Tommy Bell’s big boot pushed them back in front. However, that did not last long when number eight Laurence Pearce found his pass intercepted by wing Fetu’u Vainikolo, who strolled over to put Exeter 14-10 up.
Penalties were traded by Bell and Sweeney before the half-hour mark as the end-to-end trend continued, but when Bell slotted another three points from distance with five minutes remaining of the first-half, Exeter’s advantage was now down to one point as Tigers upped the ante.
However they managed to recoup their four-point lead when hooker Harry Thacker failed to release the tackled player. Sweeney made it 20-16.
Exeter began the second half with a gift-wrapped three points from Sweeney after Robert Barbieri was adjudged to be offside from a box kick, but Bell’s drop-goal on 50 minutes brought Tigers back to a 23-19 deficit. It was clear this LV= Cup semi-final would be going to the wire.
Leicester seemed to have the initiative going into the final 20 minutes, especially when Chiefs full-back Max Bodilly was shown yellow for offside. Bell made it 23-22 but soon after it should have been the hosts in front had Brad Thorn passed before contact to Christian Loamanu.
Exeter survived and with their new front row boosting their set-piece, they managed to secure their spot in next week’s final against Saracens with a pushover try from replacement Greg Bateman that Sweeney calmly converted handing the Chiefs a 30-22 lead, which was how it finished.
Final Score Leicester Tigers 22 Exeter Chiefs 30
Tries – Rizzo
Pen – Bell 4
Con – Bell
Drop – Bell
Tries – Taione, Vainikolo, Bateman
Pen – Sweeney 3
Con – Sweeney 3
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick, Ian Tempest
TMO: David Grashoff
15 Blaine Scully, 14 Matt Smith, 13 George Catchpole, 12 Christian Loamanu, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Tommy Bell, 9 David Mele, 8 Laurence Pearce, 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Jack Whetton, 5 Sebastian De Chaves (c), 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Tom Price, 20 Julian Salvi, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Terrence Hepetema, 23 Adam Thompstone.
15 Max Bodilly, 14 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Sireli Naqelevuki, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney (c), 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Sam Simmonds, 6 Ben White, 5 Jerry Sexton, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Moray Low, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Tom Hendrickson.
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