London Irish slipped to a 26-3 defeat against reigning Premiership and European champions Exeter at a windswept Sandy Park.
The Chiefs ran in four tries to secure a bonus point victory on a difficult day for the Exiles, who were reduced to 14 men nine minutes from time when Motu Matu’u was sent off for a high tackle on Ian Witten.
Irish trailed 14-3 at halftime after early tries from Sam Simmonds and Dave Ewers and did well to hold off some heavy pressure on their own line before Paddy Jackson’s penalty got them on the scoreboard.
However, they lost talismanic Australian lock Rob Simmons and fullback James Stokes for the rest of the game before the interval after they failed to return following off-field head injury Assessments.
Playing with the wind at their backs in the second half, Irish had plenty of territorial pressure but were unable to breach Exeter’s outstanding defensive line which held firm throughout despite being without five regular starters due to international commitments.
Alex Cuthbert scored a fine try for the hosts almost immediately after the restart before Simmonds added his second shortly after Matu’u’s dismissal.
To Irish’s credit, they did not ship any more points despite being a man down and continued to push for a consolation try, but were repelled once again on the Chiefs’ try-line as they slipped to their first defeat in three matches.
In-form Harlequins continued their fine run with a 37-24 win over Leicester at The Stoop for a third successive victory.
Quins led 30-17 at the break following a breathless first half with newly-re-signed fly-half Marcus Smith in the thick of the action scoring 22 points overall, including a try, with Mike Brown, Andre Esterhuizen and Louis Lynagh also touching down.