London Welsh endured a miserable return to the Aviva Premiership on Sunday as Exeter Chiefs ran in seven tries at the Kassam Stadium.
It was a sobering reminder, if one were really needed, as to the size of the task that confronts the Exiles if the Club is to avoid the fate which befell it in its last flirtation with the top flight.
On an afternoon when Welsh errors were punished mercilessly by the Chiefs, the Exiles were even denied a consolation score, but it would have been scant consolation in truth.
It was a harsh reintroduction in to life in the Premiership, the lessons from which the Exiles will need to learn very fast. However, it doesn’t get any easier; Bath and The Rec await next Saturday afternoon.
Thomas Waldrom’s two tries gave the visitors a commanding 17-0 cushion at the end of a first half in which Exeter’s offloading game and Welsh missed tackles had been a feature.
Any hopes of a rousing Welsh fight back disappeared when David Ewers crossed five minutes in to the second half. Sam Hill touched down for the bonus point try but showing no signs of easing up, Ian Whitten, Jack Arnott and Chrysander Botha all got in on the act to complete a miserable afternoon for the Exiles.
The early signs had been encouraging; Olly Barkley’s grubber nearly resulted in a try for Pete Browne. But Exeter’s offloading game was already beginning to cause the home side problems and the deadlock was broken on ten minutes when Waldrom finished off one such move. Gareth Steenson added the first of his six conversions.
The Exiles responded well, but might have gone further behind when Haydn Thomas burst clear, only to be called back for crossing with the line at the mercy of the Exeter scrum half.
Welsh were enjoying no shortage of possession and territory, but finding no way through a well drilled Chiefs defence. Too often the Exiles coughed the ball up in promising positions, with Exeter then looking dangerous on the counter.
When Welsh did puncture a hole - Browne powering through – the home side couldn’t capitalise on it.
Exeter in contrast were clinical. Hill’s strong carry got them on the front foot and once inside the Welsh 22 they battered away until Waldrom forced his way over.
In quick succession, Barkley had two opportunities to cut the gap and get the home side on the board, but both attempts from the Welsh fly half slipped left of the uprights.
To add insult to injury, Henry Slade added a penalty from just inside the Welsh half to see the Chiefs take a commanding 17-0 lead in to the break.
Welsh needed a big start to the second half. Instead Slade’s break nearly ended in a try for Carl Rimmer – the prop held up just short with the Exiles gratefully awarded a penalty. The Chiefs, however, were in no mood to leave the door ajar for Welsh and for the possibility of a repeat of events when they last visited the Kassam Stadium in the Premiership.
Exeter’s fourth try would indeed come and it was self-inflicted. The danger seemed to have passed when Richard Thorpe collected Exeter lineout ball at the tail and set off, only for Welsh to then go wide and see the ball stripped in the tackle and Hill race clear.
Welsh might have responded when Piri Weepu and Seb Jewell combined, only for Seb Stegmann to be denied in the corner. Welsh pressure brought a penalty which they nudged in to the corner, but frustratingly the home side couldn’t win their own lineout ball and the chance was gone.
It was a lesson in the need to take your chances. Steenson immediately pushed an Exeter penalty in to the corner and Whitten bounced off a couple of tackles and over. It got worse for the home side as Arnott did excellently to collect Will Chudley’s box kick and sprint away for try number six.
Kai Horstmann looked like he’s added try number seven but the TMO decided otherwise, but try number seven would arrive courtesy of full back Chrysander Botha as he burst through a gap.
The home side kept going, eager to at least break their duck, and Tristan Roberts’ chip over the top for Stegmann set up a late sustained spell of Welsh pressure, but there would be no consolation score, as Exeter held out. It would, of course, have been little consolation.
Bath now await; it doesn’t get any easier. But that is the very nature of the Aviva Premiership.
Exeter Chiefs scorers:
Tries: Waldrom (2), Ewers, Hill, Whitten, Arnott, Botha; Cons: Steenson (6), Slade. Pens: Slade.
Referee: Dean Richards
Touch Judges: Roger Baileff & Paul Dix