Posted: 21.06.21 at 14:50 by Will Goddard
The Exeter Chiefs put on a solid display against Sale Sharks on Saturday (19 June) in the Gallagher Premiership semi-final at Sandy Park, winning 40 points to 30.
The win sees them through to the final this Saturday 26 June against Harlequins at Twickenham.
In contrast to their previous two matches, in which second-half comebacks only just saved them from losing, the Chiefs were clearly on form in the first half.
A powerful tap-and-go penalty on Sale's five-metre line saw Luke Cowan-Dickie hammer through the defence for a try after just four minutes of play.
Then, just five minutes later, an error from Sale's back line saw Henry Slade scoop up the lost ball and a quick pass to O'Flaherty on the wing put another try under Exeter's belt.
A shock try at 24 minutes after Sale caught their own kickoff and ran rings around the Exeter defence saw the scoreboard get a little more equal at Exeter 15-10 Sale.
But a quick tap-and-go after a penalty on Sale's five-metre line saw Jack Nowell restore Exeter's comfortable lead.
The score was Exeter 22-13 Sale at the half.
A nice little grubber kick saw the Sharks steamroll their way through the Chiefs' defence to score a try just five minutes into the second half - but Exeter responded with a kick of their own over the heads of Sale's defence, for a second try from Jack Nowell.
Another try for Alex Cuthbert cemented the Chiefs' lead, but Du Preez scored shortly after for Sale.
With the scoreboard looking tight with just seven points in the game - one converted try - an intense few moments saw the Chiefs edge forward out of danger, finishing the match with Exeter 40-30 Sale.
It was a very different match to the Chiefs' previous two games.
Against Sale last week, Exeter were losing at the half, and only a second half comeback secured their victory.
The loss of key forwards Dave Ewers and Sam Skinner last week after their ban may have galvanised the Exeter side into providing a much more solid performance.
Director of Rugby Rob Baxter told Chiefs media: "I always knew we were going to turn up with a different mindset today.
"Obviously the difficulty we had in the week with the two lads being cited and being banned– that was tough on us, but also good for us because it gave us an extra reason to play, an extra reason to keep going.
"We turned up, we were bang on, we started the game with great intensity and managed to maintain that for most of the game.
"Actually, most of our mistakes and errors came from our enthusiasm to do things, rather than locking things down and not being accurate – I’ll take that every day of the week."
The Gallagher Premiership final is set to be played at Twickenham on Saturday (26 June) this week, with kickoff at 5.30pm.
The Exeter Chiefs will play Harlequins, who only just beat the Bristol Bears after a stunning second-half comeback which saw them shift the scoreboard from 28-5 at half time to 36-43 in extra time.
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