Premiership: Exeter 25-16 Newcastle - Chiefs beat Falcons to go third

Gallagher Premiership

Exeter: (22) 25

Tries: Fisilau, Wimbush, Sio, Tuima Con: Hodge Pen: Hodge

Newcastle: (13) 16

Try: Stevenson Con: Connon Pens: Connon 3

Exeter Chiefs climbed up to third in the Premiership with a 25-16 win over bottom side Newcastle Falcons.

Newcastle, without a league win since 24 March last year, took a shock early lead through Ben Stevenson's try.

But Chiefs hit back to secure a bonus point by half-time through tries from Greg Fisilau, Zack Wimbush, Scott Sio and Rusi Tuima.

Brett Connon's boot kept Falcons in the game but Josh Hodge's late penalty eased any Exeter nerves.

Exeter's victory lifts them above both Harlequins, who were well beaten by Saracens, and Bath, who host Sale on Sunday, in the race for the play-off places.

Meanwhile, Newcastle have now lost 16 successive league games since beating Gloucester 17-12 at Kingston Park last season.

Exeter were forced into a late change to their line-up, with England international flanker Ethan Roots replaced by Jacques Vermeulen after picking up an injury in the warm-up.

And Chiefs had barely had their hands on the ball before Falcons took the lead after only one minute when they spread it left to Stevenson, who collected possession 40 metres out and broke through the attempted tackle of Hodge to score in the corner.

Chiefs responded with number eight Fisilau going over from close range, only for Connon to give Newcastle a 10-5 lead when he added a penalty to his earlier conversion.

The visitors were reduced to 14 men when Guy Pepper was sent to the sin-bin and Exeter made the most of their numerical advantage to level with a bizarre try.

Falcons full-back Elliott Obatoyinbo patted the ball back in-field in trying to prevent Joe Hawkins' cross-field kick going into touch near his own line, leaving Wimbush with the simplest of tasks to pick up the loose ball near the touchline and dot down.

Exeter took the lead for the first time when prop Sio scored from a pick and go in the left corner and secured their bonus point just before the break with another close-range score from lock Tuima, to go into half-time with a 22-13 lead.

Chiefs' lead would have been bigger if they had been able to kick more than Hodge's sole first-half conversion and it made for a nervy start to the second half when Connon slotted his third penalty, before Hodge then hit the post with an effort of his own.

And any anxiety among the home supporters was only eased when Newcastle replacement Bryan Byrne was sent to the sin-bin with seven minutes left and Hodge's penalty gave Exeter a two-score lead.

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Radio Devon:

"The lads could have made a lot of excuses and they didn't make any. We made changes yesterday [Friday] to the starting line-up, Ethan Roots took a bang in the last 30 seconds of the warm-up and we had to change him, so the lads could have easily made a few excuses.

"We didn't start well and were seven points down but we knuckled down, got on with it and worked our way back into the game, we scored our tries and we got the bonus point.

"And although it was a little edgy at times in the second half because of the scoreboard, I think when we analyse there game there was little threat to our tryline and that's allowed us to see it through.

"I'm a little bit frustrated with the second half because I thought we got a bit bogged down with ourselves but fair play to Newcastle, they got the ball off the pitch and made it go set-piece to set-piece and it became a broken down game, but on the whole the guys have managed their way through that pretty well."

Newcastle consultant director of rugby Steve Diamond told BBC Radio Newcastle:

"It could have been closer. Our first-half discipline wasn't very good, we gave an opportunist try away trying to keep the ball in play, and the player went out and injured himself and the ball stayed in play and they tapped it down.

"The second-half performance was pretty good. Taking Newcastle from where they have been in the doldrums and not being competitive, I thought they were highly competitive today and with a bit more skill and knowledge into them, I think we will be able to pick some wins up for the rest of the season.

"There were a lot of positives and a lot of people are playing for contracts at the moment. The line-out went really well and in the second half we controlled the game against the wind, but if you give double-figure penalties away and get two yellow cards you're not going to win.

"They're disappointed in the changing room that they didn't get the [losing] bonus point and so they should be, but I am reasonably happy."

Exeter: Hodge; John, Wimbush, Hawkins, Woodburn; Skinner, Becconsall; Sio, Yeandle, Iosefa-Scott, Tuima, Pearson, Vermeulen, Capstick, Fisilau.

Replacements: Frost, Southworth, Street, Dunne, Vintcent, Townsend, Haydon-Wood, Rigg

Newcastle: Obatoyinbo; Radwan, Penny, Jennings, Stevenson; Connon, Stuart; Brocklebank, Blamire, Bello, Van der Walt, De Chaves, Lockwood, Pepper, Chick.

Replacements: Byrne, Brantingham, Palframan, Kelly, Cross, Douglas, Hutchinson, Moroni

Sin-bin: Pepper (18), Byrne (71)

Referee: Jack Makepeace