Another week, another wildly fluctuating Premiership contest. If Exeter thought their last victory against Leicester on the opening day of the season was dramatic, there was nothing about that final act in which Chiefs’ Christ Tshiunza secured a breathless victory for his 14-man side after a resurgent Quins had appeared to have robbed an unlikely victory of their own.
The 20-year-old Tshiunza had already contributed to a spectacular galloping try when, seconds from time, the ball found him wide to the left again. The Welsh international lock still had plenty to do but sensationally scraped cover to touch the ball, only to have referee Ian Tempest ask the televised match official to check an upfield pass. Luckily for the Chiefs, footage of Stuart Hogg’s transfer to Patrick Schickerling was ultimately ruled ‘inconclusive’ and the hosts duly went on to remain unbeaten, level with Bristol at the top of the table. Quins head coach Tabai Matson called the decision “frustrating” but his counterpart Ali Hepher insisted officials had been on the scene.
If Exeter had lost, mind you, the inquest would have been long and painful. At 31-7 after 40 minutes, it seemed impossible they could be overhauled, only for Quins to conjure up one of those Houdini-style recoveries that have become their specialty. The days of teams closing up shop and quietly shutting down games seem to have gone the way of horse-drawn carts.
It was a bizarre day throughout, with much of the second half played out with unchallenged scrums after both Quins prostitutes were injured. There was also a slightly wistful feeling in the West Country air with Sam Simmonds and potentially Jack Nowell set to leave Devon at the end of the season. Simmonds left for Montpellier, with Hepher openly confirming the news. “What you heard is what is happening. It’s a good decision, a fantastic decision for Simmo and his family.
At least in the form of Tshiunza and others, the Chiefs have young replacements at hand. Initially, Quins couldn’t stand them and was way behind. Joe Marler was forced to withdraw due to illness and Marcus Smith’s first contribution of the season was kicking off the opener to the max. The Chiefs didn’t need a second invite, with Harry Williams rushing in for the game’s first try after just three minutes.
The hosts were 17 points clear in a dozen minutes, with scrum-half Stu Townsend firing over and Joe Simmonds scoring his second conversion to add a mere penalty. The best that can be said about Quins is that their light blue change kit looked good, although Luke Northmore came close with a flying try in the left corner which was disallowed for a foot in touch.
Quins also lacked anyone up front with the energy and punch of Chiefs’ new South African signing Ruben van Heerden, who was ably encouraged by Jonny Gray, Alec Hepburn and Tshiunza. The latter’s first league try for the Chiefs was also a beauty, with the tall forward leaping without attempted tackles from Joe Marchant and Tyrone Green to score from nearly 30 yards out. Christ – pronounced as in ‘wrist’ – is definitely the one to follow.
Despite a five-point relief from Cadan Murley, which put the visitors on the board late, nothing was going well for Quins. It wasn’t the first time a backwards movement attempt from Quins had failed and fly-half Harvey Skinner collected the loose ball to run 45 yards and secure his side a bonus try point before half-time. time.
At that point, the game turned into something very different. With Danny Care adding some much-needed tempo and Chiefs guilty of wasting a few golden attacking positions, Quins finally moved some of his usual attacking fluidity, giving up two tries in four minutes down the left touchline to Green and the ever alert. Murray.
A hard run and impressive pace then yielded another long-range score finished by Northmore and, suddenly, Quins was gripping the front door. Another skillfully executed midfield play saw Murley send Northmore through a modest defense and suddenly Quins were ahead 35-31. England head coach Eddie Jones left the pitch with minutes to go, but the most important action had only just begun.
Schickerling, low slung and unstoppable, put Exeter back in front only for Quins to regain the lead via a clever cross kick from Smith to Marchant. That seemed enough but, when it mattered just to death, Exeter had Christ on his side.