Exeter seal home semi-final with comfortable win over Bristol
Exeter booked their place in the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-finals with a comfortable 35-7 win over Bristol at Ashton Gate.
The Chiefs' bonus-point victory after scoring five tries was enough for them to top Pool Two, and their 15-point haul from four games was sufficient to secure a home semi-final at Sandy Park.
The Aviva Premiership high-flyers were nowhere near their best in an error-ridden performance and it was two yellow cards for Bristol within a minute of each other towards the end of the first half that largely sealed the hosts' fate.
Exeter's tries came from Shaun Malton, Max Bodilly and Henry Slade. There were also two penalty try awards for the visitors, with Joe Simmonds slotting over all five conversions.
Bristol's sole response was a late try from Jamal Ford-Robinson, which Callum Sheedy added the extras for.
Exeter dominated the opening exchanges and were rewarded with a fifth-minute try from Malton, who finished off a driving line-out.
Bristol made a spirited response with some inventive play, Sheedy twice breaching the Chiefs' defence with neat bursts, but the home side lacked accuracy.
The hosts suffered a blow in the 19th minute when they lost Luke Arscott for a head injury assessment - new recruit Siale Piutau the man to replace him - and another setback soon followed when lock Joe Joyce was forced to leave the field.
Sam Jeffries replaced him but Bristol battled on and continued to frustrate their opponents with some stout tackling and excellent defence in the face of two five-metre line-outs.
However, things quickly went awry for the home side as they were hit with three big blows in succession just before the interval.
They lost both hooker and Marc Jones and then flanker James Phillips to yellow cards as a result of their side's repeated offending and from the next scrum, referee Ian Davies awarded a penalty try which Simmonds converted to give Exeter a 14-0 interval lead.
After the restart, the two Bristol forwards returned from the sin-bin but they were unable to stem the tide, which continued to be firmly in the visitors' favour.
Exeter lost prop Greg Holmes to a shoulder injury, Harry Williams taking his spot, but the Chiefs were still dominating in terms of possession and territory.
Several careless mistakes denied Exeter the opportunity to increase their lead, but they need not have worried as a Bristol error gifted them a third try and ended any hopes the hosts might have had of getting back into the game.
A telegraphed pass was intercepted by Slade, who raced almost 100 metres to score with Simmonds' conversion giving Exeter a 21-0 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Slade was withdrawn but Exeter brought on the firepower of Thomas Waldrom for the final 20 minutes and they soon secured the bonus point when an elusive run from Olly Woodburn created a try for Bodilly.
Woodburn was yellow carded with 10 minutes remaining, allowing Bristol to gain a merited consolation with a converted try from Ford-Robinson, but it was Exeter who had the final word when the referee awarded them another penalty try for a collapsed scrum.