|London Irish: (14) 20|
|Tries: Ruiz 2 Cons: Atkins 2 Pens: Atkins 2|
|Exeter: (10) 24|
|Tries: Innard, Iosefa-Scott, Davis Cons: Jenkins, J Simmonds 2 Pen: Jenkins|
Exeter beat London Irish 24-20 in extra time to win the Premiership Rugby Cup.
Ignacio Ruiz and Jack Innard traded close-range tries before Irish’s Argentine hooker got a second, with Exeter’s Danny Southworth sin-binned.
Irish had Josh Basham yellow-carded with seven minutes left and Exeter capitalised with Josh Iosefa-Scott’s try to make it 17-17 at full-time.
Jacob Atkins’ penalty early in extra time put Irish up, but Aidon Davis’ try just before the break sealed the win.
It is the second time in as many years that Irish have lost the final after extra time – they were beaten on tries scored after drawing 25-25 with Worcester last season, as their 21-year wait for a trophy goes on.
It was Exeter’s third domestic cup triumph since promotion to the top flight in 2010 – they won the 2014 LV Cup and the 2018 Anglo-Welsh Cup.
The Irish pack – led by the impressive Lovejoy Chawatama – asserted their control early in the game, and a second scrum penalty set up their 13th-minute opening try as Argentina hooker Ruiz forced his way over from a maul after a five-metre lineout.
Exeter regathered their composure and were back on level terms 13 minutes later when Innard – who scored two tries in the final when Exeter last won the cup in 2018 – jinked over after a great take by Sean O’Brien, as the Chiefs pressurised Irish on their line.
Exeter had Southworth sin-binned for a head-to-head collision with So’otala Fa’aso’o after 32 minutes, and two minutes later Ruiz got his second as he was mauled over from a five-metre lineout, before Iwan Jenkins’ penalty reduced the gap to four points at the break.
Jacob Atkins’ penalty five minutes into the second half extended the Irish lead, but as the game wore on Exeter started to assert themselves as their more experienced replacements came to the fore.
Basham went to the sin bin for a high hit on O’Brien as he tried to go in from close range, and from the resulting penalty Juan-Martin Gonzalez superbly stopped Rus Tuima as he tried to go over under the posts.
Irish were fortunate not to have another off the field when Ciaran Parker left Jannes Kirsten unconscious after a tackle, soon after as the game went into extra time.
Parker almost scored in the sixth minute of additional time when he dived over after seven phases of pressure on the Exeter line, but Christ Tshiunza held him up – however, with a penalty advantage Atkins kicked over a straightforward three-pointer to put Irish ahead once more.
From the kick-off Tom Wyatt broke through and set up a good field position, which Exeter eventually capitalised on as South African flanker Davis went over from a couple of metres with the final play of the first 10-minute extra period.
As both teams tired, Irish looked as though they might go on and win it as they hammered at Exeter deep in their 22. But the Chiefs defence superbly repelled 13 phases of Irish pressure and then won a turnover from a penalty to win them the title on the Exiles’ home turf.
More to follow.
London Irish: Stokes; Williams, Joseph, Hitchcock, Dykes; Atkins, O’Sullivan; Gigena, Ruiz, Chawatama, Caulfield, Munga, Cooke (capt), Basham, Fa’aso’o.
Replacements: Cornish, Haffar, Parker, Scragg, Gonzalez, Englefield, Poolman, Harmes.
Exeter Chiefs: Wyatt; John, O’Brien, Hendrickson, O’Loughlin; Jenkins, Cairns; Southworth, Innard (capt), Schickerling, Williams, Dunne, Tshiunza, Davis, Tuima.
Replacements: Harris, Kenny, Iosefa-Scott, Teague, Kirsten, Becconsall, Devoto, J Simmonds.
Referee: Adam Leal