HAVING travelled to Sandy Park full of confidence following their 22-7 win over these same opponents at Scotstoun last month, Glasgow Warriors were brought back down to earth with a painful thump as Exeter Chiefs upped their game to a level the away team simply could not cope with. 

In the end, Warriors were left thanking their lucky stars that the score-line was not more lopsided. This was a painful lesson on the true standing of Scottish pro rugby when things get serious against the top teams in Europe.  

Glasgow’s hopes of qualifying for the knock-out phase of the Champions Cup are far from dead because the adjusted format for the tournament this season means that eight out of the 12 teams on their side of the draw will progress to the last 16. 

Two wins from four matches should be enough to progress, so their final pool match against La Rochelle at Scotstoun next Saturday is going to be huge. Warriors lost 20-13 to the Frenchmen in their opening match of this European campaign but they will have home advantage next weekend. The big question is: how much has this heavy defeat dented their self-belief? 

“On 50 minutes we were in the lead at 17-14 and then it was a complete collapse from us,” reflected Warriors head coach Danny Wilson afterwards. “I’m not going to take anything away from Exeter – their performance was excellent, and they showed how ruthless and clinical they are. 

“But I don’t know how many entries we gave them into our 22 from errors and penalties. Against this type of opposition, you are always going to get hurt if you perform a like that.”

Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter said his team’s performance was a statement of intent after a patchy start to the season. 

“It felt like the old Exeter Chiefs,” he explained. “We’ve gone back to our basics and built a bit of confidence. We’ve gone back to our base DNA and have talked about being ourselves a little more.  


Warriors fired out of the blocks and took a seventh minute lead through a Ross Thompson penalty, but Exeter had come to play. They bounced back with a well-worked try by winger Tom O’Flaherty and followed that up in quick-order through Sam Simmonds off the back of a close-range line-out drive. 

To their credit, Warriors hung in there, and they pulled themselves back into the match when George Turner burst from the back of a maul. The hooker was stopped short, but Kiran McDonald sensed a gap at the side of the ruck and propelled himself over. 

Thompson’s conversion left the game delicately poised at 14-10 at the break. 

The visitors then snatched the lead early in the second half, when a slick passage of play was finished off by Matt Fagerson – but the Chiefs then clicked into overdrive. 

Sam Simmonds and O’Flaherty each crossed for their second tries of the night, and when Luke Cowan-Dickie claimed Exeter’s fifth try to make it 33-17, there was still a quarter of the match to go – and the writing was on the wall for Warriors. 

Never mind a win which would make the rest of Europe sit up and take notice – it was now about avoiding humiliation. 

Exeter’s scrum was well on top, and it was from this source that O’Flaherty claimed his hat-trick, stepping inside Thompson and carrying both Duncan Weir and Kyle Steyn over the line.  

Scotland captain Stuart Hogg set that score up and looks to be in fine form heading into the Six Nations in just under three weeks’ time. 

The misery kept coming for the visitors with some neat play in midfield by Henry Slade  sending Jack Nowell in for try number seven, and when Steyn got himself penalised for being in front of the kicker at the restart, it gifted Chiefs a chance to streak back up-field, with Dave Ewars muscling over in the last play to bring up the half century. 

Exeter Chiefs: S Hogg; J Nowell, H Slade, I Whitten (T Hendrickson 64), T O’Flaherty; J Simmonds (H Skinner 73), J Maunder (S Maunder 67); B Moon (J Kenny 66), L Cowan-Dickie (J Innard 73), J Iosefa-Scott (P Schickerling 46), S Skinner, S Lonsdale, D Ewers, J Kirsten (D Jenkins 72), S Simmonds (D Armand 72).  

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu (D Weir 63), S Johnson, C Forbes (S Cancelliere 53); R Thompson, A Price (v 61); J Bhatti (O Kebble 59), G Turner (F Brown 41), Z Fagerson (E Pieretto 64), S Cummings, K McDonald (L Bean 72), M Fagerson, R Darge (R Wilson 57), J Dempsey.  

Scorers – Exeter Chiefs: Tries: O’Flaherty 3, S Simmonds 2, Cowan-Dickie, Nowell, Ewars; Cons: S Simmonds 4, Slade 2. 

Glasgow Warriors: Tries: McDonald, Fagerson; Cons: Thompson; Pen: Thompson.