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Result: League leaders Exeter ease to bonus-point victory at London Irish

Result: League leaders Exeter ease to bonus-point victory at London Irish
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Chiefs charge on at the Gallagher Premiership summit.

Gallagher Premiership leaders Exeter posted a sixth league win of the season by beating London Irish 45-28 at the Madejski Stadium.

The Chiefs delivered a strong bonus-point display, decisively scoring three converted tries in seven minutes before half-time.

Irish battled away to claim four tries of their own and collect a losing bonus point, with Exeter briefly being reduced to 13 men in the second half when wing Olly Woodburn and centre Ollie Devoto were sin-binned for deliberate knock-ons.

Lock Davie Dennis, hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and Devoto all followed Sam Hill over the Irish line before the break, and there was no way for an Exiles side condemned to a third successive league defeat.

Hill added his second try just after the break, before substitute scrum-half Stu Townsend crossed.

And although Irish responded with touchdowns by wing Belgium Tuatagaloa, number eight Albert Tuisue, wing Ollie Hassell-Collins and flanker Steve Mafi – all converted by Stephen Myler – Exeter were good value.

Gareth Steenson finished with 15 points from six conversions and a penalty for Exeter, and they remain top of the Premiership pile heading into a fortnight of Heineken Champions Cup rugby.

England head coach Eddie Jones was among the crowd, and Exeter should have taken a fifth-minute lead when they worked blindside space well, but Woodburn dropped a scoring pass.

The Chiefs, though, only had to wait another two minutes before opening their account, with strong work by the pack setting up an attacking platform before Hill crossed for a try which Steenson converted.

Irish were starved of possession during the early stages, yet they made the most of their first opportunity, switching play from a scrum and Tuatagaloa crossed on the overlap and Myler kicked a touchline conversion attempt.

It was an impressive response by the home side, but they were then forced into an early change when their Australia international lock Adam Coleman went off injured, being replaced by Barney Maddison.

And Exeter regained the lead seven minutes before half-time, using their strong ball-carriers to maximum effect, and skipper Dennis touched down, allowing Steenson another easy conversion for a 14-7 advantage.

Exeter pushed for another score as the interval approached, and it arrived after their forwards drove from a line-out and Cowan-Dickie finished off, with Steenson's third successful conversion leaving Irish reeling.

And there was still time for another try, with Exeter completing a blistering spell when Devoto finished brilliantly for a bonus-point score which Steenson again converted.

Irish were down and out, and Hill scored a fine solo try just two minutes after the restart that took Exeter past 30 points.

The Exiles gave their supporters something to cheer about when Tuisue crossed from close range and Myler converted, yet it remained a tough exercise against a team in impressive form.

Hassell-Collins provided brief hope of an unlikely comeback with a high-class finish for Irish's third try, but Exeter resumed normal service when Hill made a decisive break and delivered an exquisite pass to Townsend.

Steenson's conversion made it 42-21, before Exeter were temporarily reduced to 14 men when Woodburn was yellow carded, then Devoto followed him three minutes later for an identical offence.

Mafi's score gave Irish a fourth try as Exeter played two men short for eight minutes, but a Steenson penalty confirmed a healthy Exeter advantage and preservation of top spot in the league.

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