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PREVIEW: Johnson’s return a boost for Chiefs

Monday 30th March 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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À la lutte en haut du classement du championnat

À la lutte en haut du classement du championnat

The last time Newcastle Falcons played at Sandy Park they were well beaten 46-17, but Rob Baxter won’t let his Exeter Chiefs players take anything for granted against their familiar Aviva Premiership rivals.

When the two teams met at Kingston Park at the start of the season it was the Falcons who came out on top, so their European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final clash this weekend will be a season’s decider.

On paper, the Chiefs are certainly favourites, having won their pool, reached the LV=Cup final already this season and sitting 28 points and five places better off in the Premiership than the Falcons. But the north-east side have already beaten the Dragons and Stade Francais in the tournament to show their capabilities.

Both sides were beaten away from home in the Premiership last weekend, the Chiefs 25-18 at Welford Road against Leicester Tigers and the Falcons 22-21 at the Madejski Stadium at the hands of London Irish. They were frustrating defeats for the respective coaches, although Chiefs director of rugby Baxter saw enough in his side’s performance to put a smile on his face.

“I was ultimately really, really pleased with the bonus point and I am kind of pleased with how we came through in the end. We learnt a lot about staying in the fight, having to be physical yet cool and calm and make good decisions,” said Baxter.

“I think we have learned a lot from that game. I really enjoy going to Welford Road because your players have to play really well.”

The Chiefs have been able to register England back row man Tom Johnson for the knock-out stages and their hope is to become the seventh Premiership side to lift the Challenge Cup. The Falcons have been to three semi-finals, but always been the bridesmaid.

Director of rugby Dean Richards knows what it takes to mastermind a winning European campaign having been in charge of Leicester Tigers when they did the Heineken Cup double and the fact there is a potential Champions Cup ticket for an English winner of the Challenge Cup will provide the Falcons with a massive incentive.

It is going to take a first win over the Chiefs at Sandy Park to continue the Falcons run in Europe, but with powerful Samoan wing Sinoti Sinoti, Pumas prop Juan Pablo Orlandi and Tongan scrum half Sonatane Takulua registered for the game they will have that landmark very much in their sights.

Match Facts

  • The Chiefs notched up more metres over the gainline and more defenders beaten as a team than anyone else in the pool stages.
  • Exeter had the best discipline in the competition in the pool stages, conceding an average of just 8.3 penalties/free-kicks per game.
  • Newcastle made more successful tackles per game (128.8) than any other side in the pool stage.
  • These sides met in the pool stage of the 2010/11 edition of this competition with both sides picking up home wins, although Exeter’s win was by 26 points whereas the Falcons won by just two points.
  • The Chiefs have won their last eight home games in the Challenge Cup, not losing since their first ever game of European rugby when they were defeated by Montpellier.
  • This is the 12th time Newcastle have reached the quarter-final stage of a European competition, they have won five and lost six of the previous 11 matches.
  • Newcastle have lost all five away games against fellow English opposition in this competition, with four of these matches coming in the knock-out stages.
  • These sides scored more tries in the pool stage following turnovers than anyone else, with the Falcons profiting six times after turning the ball over and the Chiefs five times.
  • Ian Whitten made more offloads (11) than any other player to reach the knock-out stage of this year’s tournament.
  • Newcastle’s Sean Robinson has made the joint most tackles in the tournament this year (70).

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REPORT: Chiefs reach first Euro semi

Saturday 4th April 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Newcastle n'a pas résisté longtemps à la puissance du pack d'Exeter (48-13) qui offre à son public la première demi-finale de son histoire. Elle sera à jouer à Gloucester dans deux semaines. - 04/04/2015 22:14

Newcastle n'a pas résisté longtemps à la puissance du pack d'Exeter (48-13) qui offre à son public la première demi-finale de son histoire. Elle sera à jouer à Gloucester dans deux semaines. - 04/04/2015 22:14

Exeter Chiefs eased into a first European Challenge Cup semi-final as they hammered Newcastle Falcons 48-13 at Sandy Park in the last instalment of a thrilling Easter Saturday of European action.

The Chiefs scored six tries in a clinical display in Devon to set up a mouth-watering West Country derby with Gloucester in a fortnight’s time.

A Dave Ewers effort and a penalty try had Exeter in command by the end of the opening quarter and they all but put the game to bed just a minute after the half-time break when Thomas Waldrom claimed try number three.

Byron McGuigan added a fourth just shy of the hour and Sam Hill and skipper Dean Mumm dotted down late on after Chris Harris had given Newcastle a semblance of hope with 66 minutes gone.

Both sides showed a real desire to put width on the ball early on but it was pure power up front that brought the first try of the night for the Chiefs. The pack piled on the pressure at a five-metre scrum and blindside flanker Ewers barged over with some ease with 12 minutes on the clock.

Slade’s conversion from 10 metres to the right of the posts gave the hosts a 7-0 lead and they doubled that advantage seven minutes later, despite having seen Newcastle enjoy plenty of possession in between. The second score was all the Falcons’ own doing, with full back Alex Tait pulling back Matt Jess after his clearance kick was charged down two metres from his own line. Jess would have won the race to the loose ball but Tait had no intention of letting that happen and referee Marius Mitrea pointed to the posts as a result.

The easy extras from Slade pushed the Chiefs 14 points in front, with the Falcons also down in numbers after Tait was duly sent to the sin bin.

The visitors survived Tait’s spell on the sidelines without conceding a single point, though, and they were next to
trouble the scoreboard courtesy of Tom Catterick. Their young fly half finally put the Falcons on the board a minute past the half hour with the simplest of penalties.

The gap was back up to two converted tries moments later as Slade struck a first penalty of his own but Catterick hit the target half a minute before the break to make it 17-6 heading into the final 40.

The first score after the restart was always likely to be key and the 10,022-strong crowd didn’t have to wait long for it to arrive. A first Falcons try really would have rocked the boat but instead it was the Chiefs who cemented their grip on proceedings less than a minute into the second period.

Waldrom was on hand to go over from close-range after a big burst and beautiful offload from fellow back rower Ewers set the platform for the score that left Newcastle with a mountain to climb. Slade maintained his 100 per cent record from the tee with a third conversion and a fourth success in all and Exeter had one foot in the final four at 24-6.

Slade struck again 14 minutes later to make matters even tougher for a Newcastle side who were struggling to mount a sustained attack of any sorts and the Chiefs put the game to bed just shy of the hour as Byron McGuigan bagged their fourth try. Will Chudley’s chip over the top from the base of a close-range ruck was taken on the full by the full back and Exeter were home and dry.

Slade’s final act before being replaced by Gareth Steenson was to slot the conversion and Newcastle were starring down the barrel of another big beating having been humbled 46-17 the last time they ran out at Sandy Park.

A stunning score from Harris threatened to light the fire for a Falcons comeback with 13 minutes left but Exeter well and truly snubbed that spark out in style in the closing stages. Hill and Mumm touched down for tries five and six on 69 and 71 minutes respectively as the Chiefs finsihed with a flourish.

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