Exeter close gap on leaders Saracens with convincing win over Worcester
Exeter closed the gap on Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens to three points with a comprehensive 50-12 victory over Worcester in an entertaining game at Sandy Park.
Number eight Thomas Waldrom and wing Olly Woodburn starred for the Chiefs with a hat-trick of tries, while James Short and Ollie Atkins also crossed the whitewash. Henry Slade converted three of the scores after Gareth Steenson had added the extras to two tries.
The visitors had been competitive in the opening 40 minutes, following tries from Cooper Vuna and Andy Symons, as they trailed 17-12 at the interval before being blown away in the second half as their run of four Premiership wins in succession came to an abrupt end.
Ryan Mills was a late withdrawal for Worcester to be replaced in the centre by Symons and within five minutes of the start, Exeter also suffered an injury blow when Phil Dollman limped off with Short coming on as his replacement.
Worcester had the advantage of a stiff breeze in the first half but they could not capitalise as the hosts pinned them in their own 22 for much of the opening quarter.
A succession of set scrums saw the visitors regularly penalised and a penalty try award seemed almost inevitable. After 17 minutes, Worcester prop James Johnston was sin-binned and from the next scrum, the visitors eventually conceded points when Waldrom, the leading try-scorer in the Premiership, took his tally to 11 for the season.
Johnston was still absent when Exeter extended their lead. Skilful handling from their three-quarters enabled Short to outflank the Warriors cover to score his seventh Premiership try of the season for Steenson to convert.
From the restart, Exeter were over again: a brilliant run from Jack Nowell, now playing at full-back, split the visitors' defence before his well-judged kick ahead was collected by Woodburn to score.
Seventeen points were conceded in Johnston's absence but his return coincided with an improvement in Worcester's fortunes and six minutes before half-time, Vuna forced his way over to put his side on the scoreboard.
Just before half-time, Warriors came right back into the game when Symons brushed aside some weak tackling from Steenson and Ian Whitten to score. Tom Heathcote's conversion left Worcester trailing 17-12 at the break.
A minute after the restart, Exeter scored their bonus-point try when Atkins forced his way over for his first try for the club after an excellent break by Will Chudley.
Worcester replaced Niall Annett with Jaba Bregvadze but within a minute of coming onto the field, the Georgian hooker was sin-binned for an illegal challenge.
The Chiefs changed half their pack and this seemed to temporarily disrupt their momentum with the result that they were not able to score any points in Bregvadze's absence.
After 58 minutes, Waldrom powered over for his second before Woodburn seized on a loose pass to also pick up a second as Exeter emphasised their superiority.
The final quarter was all one way traffic and with eight minutes remaining, Waldrom completed his hat-trick to almost guarantee that he will finish the Premiership's top try scorer for the second season in succession.
A miserable afternoon for Worcester was completed when Carl Kirwan became the third Warrior to be sin-binned before replacement prop Gareth Milansivoch was stretchered off and Woodburn's third try took Exeter to 50 points.