London Irish 12-31 Exeter Chiefs - Sam Simmonds sets try-scoring record

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Sam Simmonds
Sam Simmonds has scored a record-breaking 19 tries this season
Gallagher Premiership
London Irish: (12) 12
Tries: Donnell, Loader Con: Jackson
Exeter: (19) 31
Tries: S Simmonds 3, J Simmonds, O'Flaherty Cons: J Simmonds 3

Sam Simmonds broke the Premiership try-scoring record for a season as his hat-trick helped Exeter Chiefs to victory at London Irish.

Simmonds took fewer than seven minutes to equal Christian Wade and Dominic Chapman's mark of 17 tries.

He went in from close range 15 minutes later to set a new record of 18 tries as Exeter went on to secure a try-scoring bonus point after the break.

The British and Irish Lions squad member, 26, added his third late on.

The win saw Exeter return to second place in the Premiership and clinch a play-off place.

Rob Baxter's side are four points clear of third-placed Sale as they look for a home semi-final and eight behind leaders Bristol with three games to go.

Irish remain in seventh place as they hunt a top-eight finish and a place in next season's European Champions Cup.

Super Simmonds makes history

Sam Simmonds
Sam Simmonds still has three more games to extend his record

While Simmonds' remarkable scoring run may not have caught the eye of England boss Eddie Jones - the Exeter forward has not won a cap since March 2018 - he was picked by Warren Gatland for the British and Irish Lions tour ahead of Saracens' Billy Vunipola.

The pacey and powerful back row has scored 67 tries in all competitions for Exeter, and was quick to praise his team-mates and coaches as he took in his record.

"I'm lucky enough within the system we play that I'm on the ball quite a few times, whether it's mauls or close in," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It's the camaraderie of the squad. They want me to score, so they move out of the way when we're in scoring positions to allow me to get on the ball, which is great.

"They're the ones that get me in positions to allow me to get over the line and I'm just lucky enough to dot it down."

Simmonds crossed on his Premiership debut against Wasps in February 2017 and has continued scoring regularly since.

He got a critical stoppage-time try later that season as Exeter beat Saracens in the Premiership semi-final and set up the club's first-ever title.

His tally of 50 is a club record in the Premiership - he scored 12 tries in the 2017-18 season before missing almost all of the following campaign after badly injuring knee ligaments.

He came back in Exeter's double-winning campaign of 2019-20 with 10 tries in the league before this season's incredible haul.

It began with a hat-trick at Harlequins on the opening day of the season in November as he went on to score eight in his first four league matches.

A three-game fallow period was ended with one at Newcastle and a double the following week against London Irish before scoring three in his next five matches.

He did not score at all in April before grabbing a pair of tries against Worcester last time out to get him within one score of his target.

Simmonds tries bookend important win

Sam Simmonds try is celebrated
Sam Simmonds hailed the contribution of his team-mates after breaking the record

Around 4,000 fans were in attendance for just the second time for an Irish game at the Brentford Community Stadium following the relaxation of Covid-19 rules, and they were treated to an entertaining affair.

Irish response to Simmonds' close-range opener came with help from the TMO as Ben Donnell just managed to touch down, before the younger Simmonds brother - Joe - sold a superb dummy to go in from 22 metres to get Exeter's second try.

Simmonds then broke the try-scoring record, before Irish impressed as Ben Loader got on the end of an excellent Ollie Hassell-Collins pass after Paddy Jackson's pinpoint kick over the defence for their second try.

Tom O'Flaherty sealed Exeter's bonus point eight minutes after the restart as he chased down Joe Simmonds' kick and managed to beat a dithering Loader to dot down as the ball bounced over the try line.

Having survived a yellow card for O'Flaherty, Exeter were too good with their full complement, and having showed his power with his first two tries, Simmonds demonstrated his pace for his third as he ended a five-pass move on the right wing.

London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney told BBC Radio London:

"It's disappointing to lose after our first-half showing as it's small margins, but also it's exciting as I know we're not too far off where we need to be in these games.

"We have to learn from this, we competed well but I think we're even better than that.

"Exeter are 10 years down the road from where we are in terms of experience. We had lads out there today playing in their first game of this nature so they'll learn from this.

"They had three British and Irish Lions playing for them tonight, whereas we had three of our academy lads so it's a big step forward for them.

"I'm disappointed we didn't get anything out of the match as we had opportunities and we coughed up a couple of tries too at the other end."

Exeter head coach Ali Hepher told BBC Radio Devon:

"We can be well chuffed with our work tonight.

"It was a hard night for stringing too much attack around. Once we got a chance and we got in there we converted from short range.

"We knew if we got out in front it was going to be hard to chase a game in these conditions, so I'm really pleased with how we ended up and good winners on the scoreboard in the end.

On Sam Simmonds:

"He's done phenomenally well hasn't he?

"His speed, his fight, his low centre of gravity, he's scored some wonder tries this season, but also he does the hard yards as well close in.

"A lot of credit goes to the rest of the lads for getting him into those positions."

London Irish: Parton; Loader, Rona, Cokanasiga, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Phipps; Goodrick-Clarke, Creevy, Chawatama, Munga, Simmons, Rogerson (capt), Donnell, Tuisue

Replacements: Cornish, Gigena, Hoskins, Nott, O'Brien, Groom, Atkins, Stokes

Exeter: Hogg; Cuthbert, Slade, Devoto, O'Flaherty; J Simmonds (capt), Maunder; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Kirsten, Lonsdale, Ewers, Vermeulen, S Simmonds

Replacements: Yeandle, Hepburn, Francis, Price, Capstick, Townsend, Skinner, Whitten

Referee: Christophe Ridley (RFU).

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