Connacht’s four tries to Exeter’s three at the Sportsground this afternoon simply wasn’t enough as the hosts surrendered a 17 – 10 half time lead to go down 24 – 33 to the Premiership side who have cemented their lead at the top of pool 2 in the European Challenge Cup – five points ahead of second placed Connacht.

Matt Healy, Willie Faloon and Danie Poolman all crossed the whitewash in the opening half with winger Healy adding a second in the 74th minute to secure the try bonus point. Jack Carty kicked two from four conversions.

Rob Baxter’s side had a penalty try awarded in the opening half which outhalf Henry Slade converted to add to a successful penalty kick. They scored twice more after the break through lock Dean Mumm and flanker Don Armand with Slade adding 13 points with the boot.

With just five minutes on the clock, Connacht won a scrum on the Exeter 10 metre line as the visitors knocked on. Good hands shipped the ball down the line and into the hands of Healy who dove over in the right corner.

Fifteen minutes later, and the Chiefs were up in the Connacht 22 with a driving maul to get them over the line. Repeated infringements from Connacht and French referee Mathieu ~ Raynal was quick to award the penalty try which Slade converted with ease.

Connacht grabbed the lead again when another break from Healy brought play up to the Exeter 22 before he was stopped. But a powerful lineout driving maul couldn’t be stopped with Faloon coming up with the ball and the five points.

The Exeter pack proved powerful all afternoon and helped the visiting side to make significant inroads and Slade was on hand to land the three points to level the scoring when Connacht were penalised for not releasing on the 35th minute.

But just before the break, Connacht opened up a seven point lead when a scrum on the half way line fed to Healy who broke up the left wing into the opposition 22. Some classic play and handling from the backs was rewarded with Poolman going over and Carty adding the conversion.

Half time: Connacht 17 – 10 Exeter

The second half couldn’t have started better for the Chiefs with the English side scoring 10 points in barely three minutes. Slade struck a penalty as the clock read 43 and just two minutes later captain Dean Mumm intercepted and raced 40 metres for a try converted by Slade to edge Exeter back in front.

As the visitors continued to dominate at scrum time, Slade slotted another three points to put six points between the sides before the hour mark.

Lock Damien Welch had a huge chance after an intercept and break up the pitch but he tripped just 15 metres from the line and knocked the ball on. But with Connacht having to defend the line against a powerful Exeter pack, it wasn’t long until back rower Armand went over from close range with Slade adding the extras.  With just ten minutes remaining, the outhalf kicked another successful penalty, bringing his total tally for the night to 18 points.

Healy claimed his second try on the 74th minute after a quick tap penalty moved the ball right up the field for the 24-year-old to go over for the try bonus point. Carty converted to reduce the deficit to nine points with five minutes remaining.

Darragh Leader attempted a long-range penalty kick on the 78th minute to try grab the losing bonus point as well but his attempt was just wide and Exeter went home with the four points and a quarter final place in the Challenge Cup.

Pat Lam’s men travel to La Rochelle next weekend in search of a win to secure one of the remaining last eight places.

Full time: Connacht 24 – 33 Exeter

Referee: Mathieu Raynal

Attendance: 5, 088

Man of the Match: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Exeter Chiefs

 

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