Premiership: Lacklustre Exeter edge past Harlequins thanks to early tries
|Exeter: (12) 17|
|Tries: Devoto, White, Williams Con: Simmonds|
|Harlequins: (3) 15|
|Try: Hidalgo-Clyne, Walker Con: Smith Pen: Smith|
A lacklustre Exeter edged past Harlequins 17-15 in the Premiership.
The hosts took just 80 seconds for Ollie Devoto to get the first try before Nic White got their second 10 minutes later after a 27-phase move.
Marcus Smith's penalty made it 12-3 at the break, but Harry Williams went over six minutes after the restart.
Quins dominated large parts of the half and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Charlie Walker went over with Exeter down to 14 men, but they fell agonisingly short.
The victory means Exeter need one more win to ensure they end the season on top of the Premiership while Quins are fifth, level on points with fourth-placed Northampton for the final play-off place which will likely be a visit to Sandy Park.
Exeter blew Quins away early on - Dave Ewers' break from inside his own half allowing Devoto to go over unchallenged from 30 metres before White doubled the advantage.
But Harlequins grew into the half, and but for some poor handling and excellent defending would have had more than Smith's last-second kick to show for their endeavours - Alex Dombrandt stepping into touch as he went over in the corner with his side's best effort.
Exeter came out of the blocks in second half as they started the first - replacement Sam Hill bursting through on his 100th appearance to set up the field position for Williams' close-range score, before Quins took control as Exeter struggled.
They had a try ruled out as Elia Elia knocked on as he attempted to ground a kick through the Exeter defence while their scrum dominated the hosts - Ben Moon was sin-binned after an hour after a host of scrum penalties.
With the Chiefs down to 14 men Paul Gustard's side eventually broke Exeter's resistance as Hidalgo-Clyne scored from close range before Walker coasted in on the right, but Marcus Smith's conversion attempt for the second try and a penalty with five minutes to go both went wide under the swirling Sandy Park wind.
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter:
"I have just given it to the forwards in the changing rooms despite the win. That is very odd because I say every week how precious Premiership points are and how hard they are to come by.
"We did some things right but I told them this is an Exeter Chiefs pack of forwards, playing at Sandy Park and we have ended up being yellow-carded for scrum offences, we did not get our maul at any stage looking dominant and it looks like we have been pushed around a bit.
"I have said you are going to have to get your heads down over the next few weeks because we cannot just manage our way through a few games because we know there is a semi-final."
Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard:
"We controlled the end of the second half and wanted to get seven points to get into the game.
"We elected to kick into the game at the end to win it and we didn't.
"For me, this team lost 50-15 I think to this team last season and we are now coming down to their home and losing 17-15. So if they are the best team in the country by a yard - which they are - we are not far behind."
Exeter: Dollman; O'Flaherty, Slade, Devoto, Woodburn; Simmonds, White; Hepburn, Yeandle (capt), Williams, Dennis, Hill, Ewers, Lonsdale, Kvesic
Replacements: Taione, Moon, Francis, Atkins, Capstick, Maunder, Steenson Hill
Harlequins: Brown; Walker, Alofa, Saili, Chisholm; Smith, Hidalgo-Clyne; Marler, Buchanan, Sinckler, Symons, South, Clifford, Robshaw (capt), Dombrandt
Replacements: Elia, Auterac, Swainston, Merrick, Kunatani. Saunders, Lang, Ibitoye
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
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