Exeter brush aside London Irish to get home campaign off to a winning start
Exeter took maximum points in their opening home Aviva Premiership game of the season as they defeated London Irish 38-11 to move up to second in the table.
The hosts ran in six tries at Sandy Park to condemn the visitors to yet another defeat on the road, dating back to February.
The Chiefs dominated the first half territorially, the scrum and line-out, as they led 19-6 at the break after tries from Gareth Steenson, Don Armand and Luke Cowan-Dickie, with Steenson adding two conversions.
Irish replied with two Chris Noakes penalties but the Chiefs stretched their lead early in the second half with a James Short try. Wing Jack Nowell added two tries with Steenson adding two conversions - with Blair Cowan crossing for Irish's only try.
Exeter made three changes with Henry Slade starting in the centre, England colleague Nowell returning on the wing and Wales' Tomas Francis at tighthead prop. New signing, England lock Geoff Parling, started from the bench.
Fijian international Asaeli Tikoirotuma started on the left wing for London Irish, with Topsy Ojo moving to full-back and Tom Smallbone at loosehead prop. Back from World Cup duty with Scotland to start on the bench were flanker Cowan and wing Sean Maitland.
Exeter looked dangerous in the opening minutes but skipper Steenson saw his 40-metre penalty drift wide, before Thomas Waldrom spilled the ball when tackled just short of the line.
But 10 minutes later Steenson, on his 150th league appearance for the Chiefs, found a gap open up in front of him to weave his way to the line. His conversion attempt hit the far upright.
Exeter continued to pin the visitors back in their own half for the majority of the opening quarter and their only reward was a 16th-minute penalty, until Armand crossed from close range.
Steenson converted and then added the extras to the Chiefs' third try, which came from a driving maul, with Cowan-Dickie claiming the touchdown. Five minutes before the break he slotted a second penalty between the uprights.
Exeter's bonus point try came just 60 seconds after the restart as Short, playing against his former club, crossed in the corner and Steenson converted.
A chip through to the corner was intercepted by Nowell, who raced 75 metres to score in the corner, before the visitors finally found their way across the whitewash through Cowan, a half-time replacement. Noakes' conversion attempt hit the upright.
Parling received a standing ovation when he came on for his Exeter debut but the summer signing from Leicester lasted just five minutes before he left the field injured.
Centre Tom Fowlie would have scored a second Exiles try but for a foot in touch, before an other chip through was picked up by Nowell - who strolled over the line. Steenson added the conversion to complete the scoring.