Leicester Tigers 40-22 Exeter Chiefs: Final Day Disappointment for the Chiefs In East Midlands - Ruck

Leicester Tigers 40-22 Exeter Chiefs: Final Day Disappointment for the Chiefs In East Midlands

By Jack Sanderson

Today’s loss for the Chiefs marks the final game of the season, with Exeter finishing 7th in the Premiership table, whilst also having a fairly successful Champions Cup campaign, making it all the way to the Quarter-Finals. Leicester finish the season sat one spot below Exeter in eighth, after ending their hopes of a late push to the play-offs.

A scrappy but scintillating first half of rugby at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road stadium saw Leicester Tigers start the quicker of the two sides, edging the early exchanges, but the first magic moment of the game went the way of the Devon side.

After the first bit of attacking pressure from the Chiefs saw a crossfield kick from Henry Slade to Olly Woodburn, and after a bit of kick tennis between the two sides, Slade picked the ball up and was hit by a high tackle.

The resulting lineout from the penalty saw the Chiefs with ball in hand in the Tigers 22 for the first time in the match as Olly Woodburn picked up the ball and played a quick one-two with Dan John before popping it out wide to Immanuel Feyi-Waboso who raced down the right flank and over the try line to give the Chiefs first blood in the 8th minute of the match. Henry Slade knocked over the extras for a 7 point lead.

Leicester’s first points of the game came after Handre Pollard broke through the Chiefs defensive line and had a one-on-one opportunity to level the scores. However, Chiefs hooker Max Norey came across to cover with a crunching tackle to halt the move, before the referee called play back for a penalty, with the Tigers deciding to take the three points to get themselves on the board. Tigers’ number 10 Handre Pollard dispatched the penalty to give Leicester life in the 17th minute of the first half and kickstart a response to the Chiefs’ early try.

The next big moment came when Ethan Roots picked the ball up at the halfway line and was hit by a shuddering tackle, forcing him to knock the ball forwards. Leicester attempted to break forward with the advantage on their side but after the ball found its way out to the left flank, Mike Brown couldn’t get a handle on the ball and knocked it forward himself, with the referee coming back for the original knock-on from Roots.

From the resulting scrum, the Tigers spun the ball quickly from right to left, finding the hands of Ollie Hassell-Collins on the halfway line, who bolted down the left touchline, breaking two or three Chiefs’ tackles at the Exeter 22 and driving over the line to give the home side an 8-7 lead after 22 minutes, with Pollard converting the extras to stretch their lead to 3. 

Collins was nearly in again just a minute later after a high ball was dropped in contest between two players, and Collins was their to pick up the loose ball and get his legs going before he was hauled in by a great challenge from Feyi-Waboso. A cross field kick then found the hands of Mike Brown who darted inside from the right flank and handed it off to Freddie Stewart who just couldn’t keep hold of the ball and knocked it on just outside the Chiefs try line.

However the Tigers were in again not long after as Freddie Stewart collected a clear out kick on the halfway line and darted straight through the Chiefs’ defensive line before being tackled. Van Poortvliet then picked up the loose ball and cut inside the last Chiefs man and jogged over the line to give the home side 10 point lead with Pollard notching the extra two points for a 17-7 Tigers lead. 

Things would then go bad to worse for the Chiefs as the first card of the game was shown to Olly Woodburn in the 30th minute of the match for a deliberate knock on. A chip over the top from the Tigers saw yet another line break that led to Woodburn being left to defend a 2 on 1 situation that looked certain to end in another Leicester try.

However, Woodburn got in the way of the offload and was sent to the sin bin by the referee, and after a quick TMO check, it was deemed that yellow was the correct outcome, although the Tigers definitely felt agrieved not to have received a penalty try for the inicdent. From the resulting penalty Leicester chose to add three more points to the total, with Handre Pollard kicking over to stretch the home side’s lead to 13 points, 20-7 ahead after 31 minutes of play. 

The Chiefs then showed some signs of a fightback, with some incredible footwork from Tom Cairns which saw him bamboozle two Tigers defenders as he made his way towards the try line for what looked like a certain score, before being brought down just a few yards out. The Chiefs then pushed the Tigers back into their 22, forcing the home side to kick long.

Unfortunately for Leicester, the kick went out on the full and gave the Chiefs a lineout inside the 22 to get back on the scoresheet. However, the Tigers would hold out on this occasion, as the ball was spun out of the lineout to Ethan Roots, who was hit with a big tackle and knocked the ball on, ending the Chiefs’ good spell of pressure. 

There were two more notable moments of the first half to come in the last five minutes. The first came through some good work from Feyi-Waboso, as a Leicester kick that looked destined to go into touch was hauled back into play by the England international, which led the Chiefs to drive into the oppositions 22, where Leicester were penalised for side entry into a ruck, with Henry Slade choosing to take 3 points, and sailing his kick straight through the uprights.

Try Celebrations for Henry Slade of Exeter Chiefs during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Bath Rugby and Exeter Chiefs at the Recreation Ground on 2 December 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

The second incident came just a minute later, and just minutes after Olly Woodburn had returned to the pitch from his yellow card, Feyi-Waboso would receive one for the same offence, a deliberate knock on, which would see the Chiefs heading into the second half a man down. The ref then blew his whistle to end the first half, with the Chiefs 10 points behind going into the break. 

The second half started the same as the first, with the home side mounting on the pressure early doors, and unfortunately for the Chiefs, that pressure told just four minutes into the second half. Some quick hand offs from the Tigers followed by a long looping pass over two or three Exeter heads found the hands of Hassell-Collins on the left flank, leaving him one-on-one with Olly Woodburn, but instead of taking the Chiefs winger, Collins popped the ball to Tommy Reffel on his outside who sprinted through unopposed to put the Tigers 17 points ahead just four minutes into the second half. 

The home side thought they had another five minutes later, with a maul drive from a lineout taking the Tigers into the corner, but the ball had been grounded just before the line and then knocked on over the line, with the Chiefs being able to heave a big sigh of relief.

But that respite didn’t last long, when 5 minutes later after some intricate passes from Leicester, Harry Wells broke through the Chiefs lines and looked destined to go all the way through for a try, before what looked like a try saving tackle from Henry Slade stopped him in his tracks. However, some quick thinking at the breakdown from Mike Brown meant he was able to pick up the loose ball and dot over from two yards out to add another blow to any chance of a fightback from the Chiefs. 

However, the Chiefs weren’t giving up there. Some incredible work from Dan John saw him drive through the Tigers defensive line from in his own half all the way to the home side’s 22, before offloading to Daffyd Jenkins. A penalty taken quickly by the Chiefs was floated out to the left flank where Olly Woodburn was waiting to get the Chiefs right into the far corner of the pitch, just a few yards away from the Tiger’s tryline.

After some serious resistance from the home side’s defence, the Chiefs managed to move the ball from one side of the pitch to the other very quickly, and after some more tireless defending from the Tigers, Dan Frost picked the ball up from the back of the ruck and forced his way over the line to give the away side just a glimmer of hope going into the last half an hour of the game. Slade missed the conversion leaving the score 34-15. 

Henry Slade of Exeter Chiefs during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Bath Rugby and Exeter Chiefs at the Recreation Ground on 2 December 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Some more good work from the Chiefs saw them nearly in for two more tries from Woodburn and Greg Fisilau but a knock on and some more resolute defending from the Tigers stopped both of those chances from materialising.

However, the away side were given another slim piece of hope, when for some bizarre reason, Jasper Weise performed a WWE style suplex on Italian international Ross Vincent, picking the flanker up off the floor and dumping him on his back in the centre of a ruck, leaving the referee no choice but to brandish the number 8 a red card, leaving the home side permanently down to 14 men for the last 20 minutes of the match.

The resulting penalty was kicked into touch by the Chiefs, with the lineout leading to a penalty for the away side inside Leicester’s 22. A quick pick and go from the Chiefs saw the ball spun into Ross Vincent’s hands, and minutes after he was dumped on the floor by Weise, he was flying over the line to cut the gap to 12 points, with Slade kicking the extras and the Chiefs now 34-22 down with 20 minutes to go. 

Unfortunately for the away side, they would not add any more points onto the scoreboard for the rest of the game, with the Tigers substitute kicker Kieran Wilkinson coming on to dispatch two penalties in the 76th and 80th minute of the game, leaving the Chiefs to slump to a disappointing 40-22 loss at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road stadium. 


Speaking to the media at the end of the match, Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter highlighted that his side’s lack of discipline in areas of the game were what cost them in this afternoon’s match. 

Rob Baxter, Director of Rugby of Exeter Chiefs looks dejected after losing during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Bristol Bears and Exeter Chiefs at Ashton Gate on 20 May. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“Today the yellow cards have really hurt us haven’t they. There were a number of scores that went in during the yellow cards. I think the easiest way to describe what happened, and I talked to the players about it, we turned up here very emotionally driven, and threw a lot of energy into the early part of the game, but did we have any really fast, high action, and accuracy? No.

“And that’s what I’ve just said to the lads, but to be fair they were talking about it themselves. We threw a lot of emotion into the game, and it really meant a lot to them to try and put a performance in on the field, but we need to make sure we learn this lesson, that we can throw as much energy on the field as we like, but we need to make sure we do it together.”


TRIES – 4 (Hassell-Collins 22’, Van Poortvliet 27’ Reffel 44’, Brown 54’)

CONVERSIONS – 4 (Pollard 22’, 27’ 44’, 54’)

PENALTIES – 4 (Pollard 17’, 31’, Wilkinson 76’, 80’)



RED CARDS – 1 (Weise 68’)

15. Freddie Stewart 14. Mike Brown 13. Matt Scott 12. Dan Kelly 11. Ollie Hassell-Collins 

10. Handre Pollard 9. Jack Van Poortvliet 1. Francois Van Wyk 2. Julian Montoya (Captain) 3. Dan Cole 4. George Martin 5. Harry Wells 6. Hanro Liebenberg 7. Tommy Reffell 

8. Jasper Wiese


16. Charlie Clare 17. James Cronin 18. Joe Heyes 19. Finn Carndruff 20. Olly Cracknell 

21. Tom Whiteley  22. Kieran Wilkinson 23. Solomone Kata


TRIES – 3 (Feyi-Waboso 8’, Frost 58’, Vincent 69’)

CONVERSIONS – 2 (Slade 9’, Slade 69’) 

PENALTIES – 1 (Slade 39’)


YELLOW CARDS – 3 (Woodburn 30’, Feyi-Waboso 41’, Skinner 80’)


15. Dan John 14. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso 13. Henry Slade 12. Joe Hawkins 11. Olly Woodburn 10. Harvey Skinner 9. Tom Cairns 1. Scott Sio 2. Max Norey 3. Marcus Street

4. Jack Dunne 5. Dafydd Jenkins (Captain) 6. Ethan Roots 7. Jacques Vermeulen 8. Greg Fisilau 


16. Dan Frost 17. Billy Keast 18. Ehren Painter 19. Christ Tshiunza 20. Ross Vincent 

21. Niall Armstrong 22. Will Haydon-Wood 23. Zach Wimbush