Premiership - Steenson boots Exeter to win

Gareth Steenson scored all the points as he kicked Exeter to an 18-16 victory in their Aviva Premiership clash with Sale.

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Premiership - Steenson boots Exeter to win

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Gareth Steenson, Exeter Chiefs (PA Sport)

The Exeter fly-half did not falter under the lights at the AJ Bell Stadium as he maintained a 100 per cent record to help claim the fifth win of the campaign for the Chiefs despite a late rally from Sale.

A flurry of yellow cards in the first half dented Sale's hopes of bouncing back from their defeat by Harlequins last weekend, but Danny Cipriani's three penalties and Mark Cueto's late converted try was enough for them to claim a losing bonus point in the defeat.

The game started with Sale penalised for pulling down a maul, and when no advantage was gained, referee Wayne Barnes took play back to allow Steenson his first shot at goal.

The Chiefs stand-off did not miss, but Sale were quickly back on level terms when Exeter prop Brett Sturgess was penalised at the scrum, allowing Cipriani to line up a regulation kick.

Sale's forwards showed their intent again as they drove the Chiefs' unstable-looking scrum to pieces against the head to claim another penalty.

With the mist descending, Exeter's pack looked to be losing their way, as the Sharks' tight five continued to do serious damage.

They set the platform for another Cipriani penalty as referee Barnes spotted an offside infringement, allowing the former Melbourne Rebels star to put Sale 6-3 up.

However, the Sharks were dealt a blow in the 20th minute when tighthead Vadim Cobilas was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements at the ruck after a break from the line-out had seen Exeter threaten Sale's line.

It resulted in Steenson lining up his second penalty as the battle of the kickers continued, with the Exeter fly-half soon regaining the lead for his side with a third strike after a maul was hauled to the floor.

Sale's backline then stretched their legs after wing Tom Arscott ran on to a lucky bounce and scythed through the defensive line in a move that involved Johnny Leota and Sam Tuitupou, but Mark Cueto was unable to get to the centre's chip and the ball went dead.

Cipriani missed a chance to level when Exeter were penalised for not releasing and the Chiefs were given another one-man advantage soon after when Sale hooker Tommy Taylor was sent to the sin-bin after a brief melee.

Steenson booted Exeter 12-6 ahead and they tested Sale again when wing Matt Jess broke the line with an angled run.

The Sharks' continued indiscipline cost them dear as they lost lock Kirill Kulemin to the bin three minutes before the half-time whistle for coming straight over the top of a ruck and taking out scrum-half Dave Lewis.

Steenson maintained his 100 per cent record to put the Chiefs 15-6 up at the break as Exeter finished the half on a high and Sale went in with just 13 men.

The Chiefs looked to make their two-man advantage pay at the start of the second half but Dean Mumm dropped an easy pass and some superb defence from Sale at a five-metre line-out maul killed their chances, with Taylor returning to bolster their forwards.

In fact it was Sale who had their tails up and they almost crossed for the first try when full-back Rob Miller broke in midfield, only for the ball to be fumbled by Cueto inches from the line, after they had returned to full strength with David Seymour on for Kulemin.

A series of scrum penalties and aerial ping pong followed but it was Sale who looked the more dangerous when the ball came back down from orbit with a couple of breaks, yet some resolute Exeter defending and the odd fumble saw their attacks fizzle out.

Cipriani fired a penalty six minutes before the final whistle which Steenson matched at the other end, before the game finished with a flourish as Cueto crossed for a late try in the corner after some good hands.

Cipriani added the conversion, as Sale salvaged a losing bonus point.

Worcester are still searching for their first Premiership win of the season after Bath condemned them to their seventh consecutive loss.

The Warriors already appear doomed to relegation as they now find themselves eight points adrift at the foot of the table with their nearest rivals, Gloucester and London Irish, both having home games to come this weekend and with it a chance to extend their advantage.

In the incessant rain, Bath were more streetwise than their opponents and took their chances whereas Worcester did not.

Anthony Perenise and Horacio Agulla capitalised on Warriors errors to score the visitors' two tries with George Ford having the better of the kicking duel with 11 points to only six from Paul Warwick, who missed two penalties at vital stages in the game which would have galvanised his side.

Worcester played with spirit before a passionate crowd of over nine thousand and for much of the match were the equal of their opponents but apart from replacement wing Ravai Fatiaki, they lacked the creative nous to test the Bath defence and once again finished try less.

Bath made only one change from last week's win over Gloucester with academy product Will Spencer replacing Dave Attwood at lock.

Worcester gave fly-half Warwick a first Premiership start in place of Ignacio Mieres with Leonardo Senatore making his Warriors' debut in the back row. Senatore joined his fellow Argentinian internationals Agustin Creevy and Mariano Galarza in the home pack.

Bath began brightly and took an early 6-0 lead through two Ford penalties. It was not the best of starts for the Warriors as twice they turned over possession on half-way and then Paul Warwick was unable to make the most of their first point-scoring opportunity when his penalty attempt fell short and wide.

However when it was his turn, Ford made no mistake with an excellent effort from almost the half-way line, which belied the dreadful conditions. Worcester soon suffered another blow when their lively wing David Lemi was injured after only 19 minutes and was replaced by Fatiaki.

An Anthony Watson knock on gave the Warriors their first real chance to attack as from the resulting scrum, the ball was swiftly moved along the line to Fatiaki, who burst into the opposition 22. The ball was swiftly recycled for Worcester to batter the visitors' line and they appeared to have crossed but the TMO ruled no try.

It was a big blow as a superb drop out from Ford took Bath straight into the opposition 22. Warriors lost the ensuing line-out, throwing straight to Matt Garvey, who collected to send prop Perenise over for the try which Ford converted with another splendid kick.

Just before half-time Warwick put the Warriors on the scoreboard with a penalty to leave them 16-3 behind at the interval.

At the restart, Bath were immediately penalised to allow Warwick to kick his second penalty but soon afterwards the outside half missed with an easier kick which would have given Bath food for thought.

Ford had a penalty chance for Bath but this time he badly miscued his kick and it was Worcester who continued to have the better of the early stages of the second half but they could not capitalise and with 20 minutes to go, the visitors sealed victory.

Agulla had just come onto the field for Semesa Rokoduguni and with almost his first touch he ripped the ball from a maul to run an unopposed 25 metres for the crucial try which Ford was unable to convert.

With seven minutes to go, Warriors lock Chris Jones was sin-binned for dragging down a maul and Matt Banahan almost took immediate advantage but he lost the ball in the process of touching down. It mattered little as Bath were not unduly troubled in the final period to run out comfortable winners.

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