Gallagher Premiership: Exeter Chiefs play-off hopes dashed by Bristol Bears | Rugby Union News

Rob Baxter’s Exeter Chiefs side lost 40-33 at Ashton Gate; the Chiefs are now four points behind fourth-placed Northampton with just one game to play; Sale Sharks beat Wasps 16-7 to secure Champions Cup rugby next season

Last update: 20/05/22 22:30

Exeter Chiefs have just one regular season game left against Harlequins

Exeter’s hopes of reaching the Gallagher Premiership play-offs for a seventh consecutive season were effectively ended after Bristol beat them 40-33 at Ashton Gate.

Two points dropped means Exeter still have the smallest mathematical chance of progressing, but they are four points behind fourth-placed Northampton with just one game to play.

Saints or Gloucester can end Exeter’s chances in their games on Saturday, leaving the Chiefs – six-time Premiership runners-up – facing an early end to their season for the first time since 2015.

The Chiefs battled to come back from 14 points adrift in an 11-try thriller, but winger Toby Fricker’s interception try and a subsequent score from Luke Morahan saw Bristol go home.

Fricker and Morahan aside, full-back Charles Piutau crossed twice for Bristol, with fly-half Callum Sheedy and center Alapati Leiua also affected, while Sheedy kicked four conversions and Ioan Lloyd one.

Exeter went blow for blow with touchdowns for Santiago Grondona, Josh Hodge, James Kenny, Olly Woodburn and Dave Ewers – Joe Simmonds started four conversions – but Bristol prevailed with a powerful finish.

Piutau and Morahan returned for Bristol’s final home game of the season, with Leiua, John Afoa and Dave Attwood making their final appearances at Ashton Gate before moving on to new clubs next season.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter made four changes to the side beaten by Saracens last time out, including departures for Hodge, Ewers and prop Harry Williams.

Gallagher Premiership Matchday 25 fixtures and results

Friday Bristol Bears 40-35 Exeter Heads
FridayWasps 7-16 Sale Sharks
Saturday at 3 p.m.Bath Rugby v London Irish
Saturday at 3 p.m.Harlequins v Gloucester Rugby
Saturday at 3 p.m.Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers
Sunday at 5:30 p.m.Saracens v Northampton Saints

The Chiefs dominated the territory early on, and it seemed to have reaped their reward after 11 minutes when Stuart Hogg touched down, but the try was disallowed following a knock-on in the warm-up game.

Bristol spent most of the opening quarter defending but a combination of aggressive tackles and errors from Exeter left them scoreless.

The home side then struck with their first attack after Exeter skipper Jack Yeandle infringed, Bristol’s England scrum-half Harry Randall taking a quick penalty and clearing Sheedy on a clear run to the line.

Sheedy added the conversion in an impressive response after being left out of the Wales squad earlier this week for a three-Test tour of South Africa in July.

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It was a completely against the run of play scoreline, but Exeter responded within four minutes after sustained pressure from close range resulted in Grondona falling and Simmonds converting.

Bristol came back, however, and they reclaimed the lead seven minutes before half-time when Piutau forced their way in to reward impressive work from a fiery home field.

Sheedy’s conversion restored Bristol to a seven-point lead, but while defenses had dominated early action, space was now being created and flowing passing enabled Exeter to equalize again just before halftime as Hodge completed a smart move and Simmonds converted.

Hodge went off injured early in the second half, before the visitors produced another smart attacking move that saw center Ian Whitten break through the Bristol defence, only to be sent off after a late tackle earlier.

And Bristol made the most of it when Piutau scored his second try after 47 minutes, Sheedy’s conversion again leaving Exeter seven points behind.

Sheedy opened up the Exeter defense five minutes later, before delivering a superb pass to Leiua, who applied a stunning finish, and Sheedy’s conversion left the Chiefs floundering.

But Bristol then fished substitute Jack Bates for a dangerous tackle on Exeter number eight Jacques Vermeulen and they immediately claimed a third down by Kenny which Simmonds converted.

The home side were unable to cope with 14 players and Exeter struck again on the hour mark through Woodburn, before Simmonds added the extras to make it 28-28.

Exeter, however, followed the good with the bad when England center Henry Slade’s pass was intercepted by Fricker just inside his half and he sprinted flawlessly to score – with Lloyd converting – before only Morahan to seal a memorable victory six minutes from time.

Sharks book a spot in Europe’s top tier next season

Sale Sharks secured their place in next season’s European Champions Cup with a hard-fought 16-7 win at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

The victory also kept Sale’s slim hopes of a play-off spot alive, but a number of results from other teams must come their way if they are to climb to the necessary fourth place.

Wasps are now in danger of missing out on a Champions Cup place, with no points from that clash and a trip to league leaders Leicester in their final game next week.

For sale Robert Du Preez kicked three penalties and converted an Akker van der Merwe try, while Wasps ran through Gabriel Oghre as Jimmy Gopperth added the extras.

Sky Sports

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