|London Irish: (12) 12|
|Tries: Donnell, Loader Con: Jackson|
|Exeter: (19) 31|
|Tries: S Simmonds 3, J Simmonds, O’Flaherty Cons: J Simmonds 3|
Sam Simmonds broke the Premiership try-scoring record for a season as his hat-trick helped Exeter Chiefs to victory at London Irish.
Simmonds took less than seven minutes to equal Christian Wade and Dominic Chapman’s mark of 17 tries.
He went in from close range 15 minutes later to set a new record of 18 tries as Exeter went on to secure a try-scoring bonus point after the break.
The British and Irish Lions number eight added his third late on.
The win saw Exeter return to second place in the Premiership and clinch a play-off place.
Rob Baxter’s side are four points clear of third-placed Sale as they look for a home semi-final and eight behind leaders Bristol with three games to go.
Irish remain in seventh place as they hunt a top eight finish and a place in next season’s European Champions Cup.
Super Simmonds makes history
While Simmonds’ remarkable scoring run may not have caught the eye of England boss Eddie Jones – the Exeter forward has not won a cap since March 2018 – he was picked by Warren Gatland for the British and Irish Lions tour ahead of Saracens’ Billy Vunipola.
The pacey and powerful back row has scored 67 tries in all competitions for Exeter, and was quick to praise his team-mates and coaches as he took in his record.
“I turned up at Exeter at 18 not really knowing what position I wanted to play,” he told BT Sport.
“They’ve allowed me to be me and score tries and excel as a player.
“I can’t give just the club the credit, not just the coaches, but the players. The players do so much for me, and everyone really as a squad, so I’m just so thankful to be a part of this team.”
Simmonds crossed on his Premiership debut against Wasps in February 2017 and has never really stopped scoring since
He got a critical stoppage-time try later that season as Exeter beat Saracens in the Premiership semi-final and set up the club’s first-ever title.
His tally of 50 is a club record in the Premiership – he scored 12 tries in the 2017-18 season before missing almost all of the following campaign after badly injuring knee ligaments.
He came back in Exeter’s double-winning campaign with 10 tries in the league before this season’s incredible haul.
It began with a hat-trick at Harlequins on the opening day of the season in November as he went on to score eight in his first four league matches.
A three-game fallow period was ended with one at Newcastle and a double the following week against London Irish before scoring three in his next five matches.
He did not score at all in April before grabbing a pair of tries against Worcester last time out to get him within one score of his target.
Simmonds tries bookend important win
Around 4,000 fans were in attendance for just the second time for an Irish game at the Brentford Community Stadium following the relaxation of Covid-19 rules, and they were treated to an entertaining affair.
Irish response to Simmonds’ close-range opener came with help from the TMO as Ben Donnell just managed to touch down, before the younger Simmonds brother – Joe – sold a superb dummy to go in from 22 metres to get Exeter’s second try.
Simmonds then broke the try-scoring record, before Irish impressed as Ben Loader got on the end of an excellent Ollie Hassell-Collins pass after Paddy Jackson’s pinpoint kick over the defence for their second try.
Tom O’Flaherty sealed Exeter’s bonus point eight minutes after the restart as he chased down Joe Simmonds’ kick and managed to beat a dithering Loader to dot down as the ball bounced over the try line.
Having survived a yellow card for O’Flaherty Exeter were too good with their full compliment, and having showed his power with his first two tries, Simmonds demonstrated his pace for his third as he ended a five-pass move on the right wing.
London Irish: Parton; Loader, Rona, Cokanasiga, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Phipps; Goodrick-Clarke, Creevy, Chawatama, Munga, Simmons, Rogerson (capt), Donnell, Tuisue
Replacements: Cornish, Gigena, Hoskins, Nott, O’Brien, Groom, Atkins, Stokes
Exeter: Hogg; Cuthbert, Slade, Devoto, O’Flaherty; J Simmonds (capt), Maunder; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Kirsten, Lonsdale, Ewers, Vermeulen, S Simmonds
Replacements: Yeandle, Hepburn, Francis, Price, Capstick, Townsend, Skinner, Whitten
Referee: Christophe Ridley (RFU).