A LEAGUE: Braves defeat Exiles

3 October 2017

Exeter Braves maintained their winning start to this season's Aviva A League, defeating London Irish 47-12 at Sandy Park.

The Braves secured maximum reward on the night thanks to tries from Kai Horstmann (2), Ed Holmes, Moray Low, Tom O'Flaherty and Joe Simmonds, who also kicked six conversions.

Irish registered a score in each half from No. 8 Lasha Lomidze, but the night belonged to the Devon outfit who continue their march at the top of the table.

Looking to build on earlier wins over Harlequins and Bristol United, it didn't take the Braves long to get into their stride. Early pressure resulted in a string of five-metre scrums, the third of which saw the home pack drive the ball towards the whitewash, allowing Horstmann the simplest of finishes in the left-hand corner. Simmonds obliged with a testing touchline conversion to give the home side a seven-point advantage.

Minutes later the home side threatened again, winger O'Flaherty set off on a burst from deep inside his own half, before he worked the ball to Simmonds and then to Harry Strong. The right winger blasted towards the Irish line, but was halted just short. The cavalry followed in hot pursuit, but a case of 'White Line Fever' saw the Braves knock on just inches out.

Not to be deterred, the Braves continued to pile forward in numbers and they were rewarded with a second try through Ed Holmes, the flanker powering over from close range after an initial five-metre drive had been held.

It was proving one-way traffic and when the Braves entered the Irish 22 again four minutes later, it was the experienced Horstmann who again found his way over the whitewash, finishing off another well-constructed Exeter line-out drive. As before, Simmonds slotted the resultant conversion to give his side a 19-0 lead.

Irish got themselves back into the contest on the stroke of half-time, Irish full-back Ben Ransom chipping the ball ahead for Georgian international Lomidze to touchdown.

The Exiles closed the gap to 19-14 when Lomidze bagged his brace for the evening Lomidze, this time breaking off the back of a ruck deep inside the Exeter 22, before bulldozing his way to the line for the score. Brophy Clews converted with aplomb from the right touchline.

Any hopes of a second half revival from the Exiles, however, were quickly extinguished as the Braves hit the Londoners with a quick-fire, try double. 

Centre Skinner was first to score, latching onto a pass from midfield partner Tom Hendrickson, before Scottish international Low claimed a fifth try for the Devonians, burrowing his way over from a simple pick-and-go move. On both occasions, Simmonds slotted the extras to put his side 33-12 to the good. 

Already up against it, Irish's cause was hardly helped as they lost both Lovejoy Chawatama and replacement Jacob Atkins to the sin-bin in quick succession for professional fouls.

With the numerical advantage, it was only a matter of time before the Braves struck again. Pushing hard in attack, the home side worked a lovely opening for Simmonds to latch onto a simple pop pass, before racing unopposed over 30 metres and under the sticks for the score, which he also converted.

If that was not enough for the home faithful, they had further reason to cheer with just four minutes remaining, O'Flaherty capping off an impressive display when he too turned on the after burners to replicate the score of his team-mate just moments earlier. Simmonds again converted to put the seal on a good night's work for Pellow and his young charges.

Exeter Braves: M Bodilly (J Elderkin h/t); H Strong (AJ Cant 42), T Hendrickson, H Skinner, T O’Flaherty; J Simmonds, J Maunder (W Chudley 56); M Low (J Owlett 60), S Malton (D Frost 58), G Holmes (A Hepburn h/t); O Atkins (J McRae 75), W van der Sluys; E Holmes (S Lonsdale 60), J Freeman, K Horstmann (c).

Tries - Horstmann (2), E Holmes, H Skinner, Low, J Simmonds, O'Flaherty; Conversions - J Simmonds (6)

London Irish: B Ransom; J Cokanasiga (B Loader h/t), C Hearn, L McLean, O Hassell-Collins; T Brophy Clews (J Atkins 54), R Brand (B McKibbin 59); T Smallbone ©, A Hay 20), T Woolstencroft (T Gleave 59), L Chawatama; W Lloyd, J Basham; I Curtis-Harris (H Culverhouse 68), M Northcote-Green (J Cooke 63), L Lomidze. Replacement (not used): M Saulo

Tries - Lomidze (2); Conversion - Brophy Clews

Yellow Cards: Chawatama, Atkins

Referee: B Russell

Attendance: 839

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