Stu Townsend stretches to score a try under a tackle

Premiership: Bristol 14-24 Exeter – Chiefs beat Bears with rare away win

Stu Townsend stretches to score a try under a tackleStu Townsend scored Exeter’s third try just before being sent to the sin-binGallagher PremiershipBristol:(14) 14 Tries: Oghre, Heward Cons: Sheedy 2Exeter:(12) 24Tries: Iosefa-Scott, Feyi-Waboso, Townsend, Vermeulen Cons: Slade 2

Exeter moved top of the Premiership with a rare bonus-point win on the road as they prevailed 24-14 at Bristol.

Tries from Josh Iosefa-Scott and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso twice had Chiefs ahead but Gabriel Oghre and Noah Heward replied in a see-saw first half.

Stu Townsend put Exeter back in front on the resumption and Jacques Vermeulen wrapped up the bonus point late on.

Exeter’s seventh win of the campaign lifts them above Bath at the summit ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.

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Rob Baxter made changes to the Exeter side that beat Leicester last weekend with try-scorers Iosefa-Scott, Feyi-Waboso and Townsend among those returning to the starting 15 for only the Chiefs’ second win on the road since October 2022.

The game took place in front of a bumper crowd of more than 24,257 inside Ashton Gate, the largest attendance for a Bears match for more than three years, but it was the visiting fans who were celebrating first during a first 40 minutes that saw the lead switch back and forth.

Exeter off-loaded quickly from a five-metre line-out, moving the ball swiftly to set up Iosefa-Scott to drive over from close range, Henry Slade adding the extras.

Bristol instantly retaliated with their own try following a line-out, hooker Oghre powering through the Exeter defence and Callum Sheedy’s conversion levelling the scores.

An excellent team try saw Exeter go back in front after Ollie Woodburn made the crucial line break, the ball spread out wide for Feyi-Waboso to touch down in the right corner.

But Heward sprinted through a narrow gap down the right touchline before acrobatically diving over in the corner, Sheedy converting to give Bristol a slender two-point half-time lead.

The Bears were left to rue a poor catch from the second-half restart however, gifting Exeter possession. While Feyi-Waboso’s impressive 30-yard run was stopped inches from the tryline, scrum-half Townsend was on hand to touch down from close range.

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The winning margin could and should have been higher for Exeter as Slade missed his second conversion right before Townsend was sent to the bin for a deliberate knock-on.

The Chiefs were awarded a second penalty in front of the posts for a certain three points, but chose to go for the tap failed to convert the chance.

They eventually made their pressure pay five minutes from time as replacement Vermeulen barged his way over to secure all five points and nudge Exeter ahead of Bath at the top by a point.

Winger Feyi-Waboso agrees new Chiefs deal

After Feyi-Waboso scored his fifth try of the season and won the player-of-the-match award, Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter revealed after the game the 21-year-old has this week agreed a new “long-term” deal to stay with the club.

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso runs with the ball for ExeterImmanuel Feyi-Waboso scored his fifth try of the season, and his fourth in the Premiership

The Cardiff-born winger, who is eligible to play for both England and Wales, is also studying for a medical degree at Exeter University alongside his rugby career.

“He has just agreed a long-term contract, so I’m glad we got that done this week before the game. I will be tracking him down now for his signature on it,” Baxter told TNT Sport.

“He is very determined to mix his rugby with his medical career, although I guess that depends how busy he becomes as a rugby player. We are making it work for him and he is making it work for us, so long may that continue.”

Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam told BBC Radio Bristol:

“We’re disappointed as a team obviously but also for our fans, with such a good turn out. It was certainly a game that was going neck-and-neck and was always going to come down to territory and playing in the right areas and we didn’t put enough pressure.

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“We turned the ball over, we gave penalties away and we gave them opportunities, particularly after half time.

“We had a chance to win the game and we went for the corner and unfortunately we didn’t win the line-out and then we conceded right at the end too to take the game out.

“It’s just disappointing to come away with nothing from the game.”

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Radio Devon:

“If you watch the game, you could see we could have grabbed more control of it really. We gave some soft midfield penalties, it’s a bit of the bane of my life as a coach really, but the guys are fighting, they’re working hard, they turned up and they worked hard from the off.

“I’d actually said to myself weirdly in the changing room, ‘if we didn’t let Bristol score in the first 10 minutes, we’d win the game’ and that’s actually how it transpired.

“We kept them at arm’s length, we scored first, we looked like we’d turned up to play, our set piece turned up and that gets you in the game and when you’re in the game and you’re a good team, anything can happen.

“A five-point win away from home, you can’t ask for more really. It keeps us pushing up the table and we’re the first game of the weekend, so it pushes pressure onto other people and that’s how you want things to go.”

Bristol: Malins, Heward, Vakatawa, Janse van Rensburg, Lane, Sheedy, Randall; Lahiff, Oghre, Sinckler, Dun, Batley, Luatua (c), Thomas, Bradbury.

Replacements: Capon, Woolmore, Kloska, Caulfield, Owen, Marmion, Williams, Ravouvou.

Exeter: Hammersley, Feyi-Waboso, Slade, Devoto, Woodburn, Skinner, Townsend; Abuladze, Frost, Iosefa-Scott, Tuima, Jenkins (c), Roots, Vintcent, Fisilau.

Replacements: Norey, Hepburn, Street, Pearson, Vermeulen, Cairns, Hawkins, Wimbush.

Sin bin: Stu Townsend (45 mins)

Referee: Christophe Ridley

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