Penzance pair involved as Chiefs suffer final agony
Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Nowell missed out on the title PIC: STEVE BOND/PPAUK
30th June 2021
By Gareth Davies
Penzance pair Luke Cowan- Dickie and Jack Nowell suffered Premiership final heartache as Exeter Chiefs were edged out 40-38 by Harlequins at Twickenham on Saturday.
In a simply sensational game of rugby, that ebbed one way and then flowed the other, Cowan-Dickie was replaced just after the hour mark when he suffered a concussion injury, while Nowell played for 79 minutes before his place was taken by onetime former Cornish Pirate Harvey Skinner.
The Chiefs were behind inside the first five minutes when Harlequins were awarded a penalty try after merry whistle blower Matt Carley judged that giant lock Jonny Hill had pulled down a driving maul.
Hill was sent for a ten-minute sabbatical for his troubles and half of the limited 10,000 crowd at Headquarters were sent into early raptures. However, the Devonians were soon back on level terms with a punishing Cowan- Dickie drive setting the platform for Jonny Gray to score from close range with Joe Simmonds converting.
Exeter then took the lead with a carbon-copy move during a fascinating opening 40 minutes when England prop Alec Hepburn snuck over. The awarding of the try was handed over to the television match official and despite much deliberation, Hepburn’s score, converted by Joe Simmonds, stood. Harlequins, who had battled back from 28-0 down to defeat Bristol in their semifinal seven days previously came again before the break to hit Exeter with a two try salvo.
Wilco Louw finished off a set move to score with loose forward Alex Dombrandt cruising over in similar fashion with 40 minutes elapsed.
The Stoop outfit then started the second stanza how they finished the first with another converted try. Chiefs’ flyer Alex Cuthbert, playing his last game for the Sandy Park men before returning to his native Wales, was struggling with a hamstring injury and with Exeter unable to make a substitution, Harlequins took full advantage as Andre Esterhuizen finished out wide.
Stuart Hogg was sent on as Cuthbert’s replacement with Nowell moving from full-back to a more familiar role on the right wing.
Twelve points down, Exeter needed to respond quickly, and they did just that as Sam Simmonds, another ex-Pirate, crashed over for his 21st try of a simply remarkable campaign. Joe Simmonds added the extras, and it wasn’t long before Exeter, with their tails up, had completely turned the game on its head.
Both Simmonds brothers combined brilliantly in midfield to open up space for Ollie Devoto to charge through to score.
Once again, Joe Simmonds made no mistake, and the Exeter skipper added a successful penalty shortly after to increase his side’s lead to 31-26. With ten minutes left, Harlequins really were in do or die territory and they went for broke, with their ambitious throwing of caution to wind paying dividends.
Led by their brilliant young flyhalf Marcus Smith, Quins created a perfect overlap before winger Louis Lynagh, son of Wallaby great Michael, dotted down out wide. Smith booted over a brilliant touchline conversion and just minutes later, Harlequins, Lynagh and Smith repeated the dose.
Harlequins knew the Premiership trophy was in touching distance, but Exeter weren’t done quite yet as Nowell stole Joe Simmonds’ clever restart and after feeding Hogg, the Scottish fullback went over.
Joe Simmonds scored the extras and Exeter were just two points behind. They successfully gathered possession from the restart, but soon turned the ball over as Quins ran the clock down to claim a quite remarkable victory in a quite remarkable match.