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It has been a rollercoaster of a season for Exeter. After winning both the Champions Cup and Premiership in 2019/20, they have struggled to find their form of last season.
Of course, preparing yourself for the biggest stage is always going to take it out of you and perhaps there was a slight factor of struggling to get themselves up for the smaller games as a result.
That lead to them crashing out of the Champions Cup in the quarter-final to Leinster and fail to top the Premiership table for the first time since 2016/17.
Sale have been one of the most feared sides in the league this season. The influx of South Africans has certainly helped their cause, and winning games upfront in the pack has been their identity.
Indeed, when you have the likes of Lood de Jager, Cobus Wiese, Coenie Oosthuizen, both Du Preez’s and the Curry twins to name a few, it isn’t surprising that they dominate most teams that they face, but this Exeter side could be the one team that look capable of stopping them.
The Chiefs did just that at the weekend when these two had a dress rehearsal at Sandy Park, winning 20-19 even after Sam Skinner was given his marching orders in 53rd minute.
In fact, the hosts received that red card at 19-3 down, as they had to regroup to put in one of the best second half performances of their season to earn themselves a home semi-final.
Scotland international Skinner will now miss the playoff game following that red card, but we think the Sharks have been harder hit by the absentee list.
AJ MacGinty pulled strings for them last weekend and the USA international has been a vital figure in this team all season. He’ll be missed massively, as will Lood de Jager, Cam Neild and potentially hooker Akker van der Merwe.
Exeter 1-12 Point Winning Margin
On the road this season, Alex Sanderson’s men have gone W7-L4 from their 11 trips, losing to Newcastle, Harlequins, Northampton and Exeter themselves, while in both Europe and the Premiership, all but one of their nine defeats has come by 12 points or fewer, and that looks the way to go in this one.
Rob Baxter’s men do look the better side and they’ve come into their own since crashing out of the Champions Cup back in April.
They’ve won all seven matches since, beating eventual table toppers Bristol in their own backyard 20-12, and they should have too much about them.
With all four head-to-heads between these two sides being separated by fewer than 11 points since the start of 2020, that looks the way to go with the winning margin too.