DECLAN Kidney said experience was a key factor as Exeter Chiefs overcame his London Irish side 45-28 in the Gallagher Premiership this afternoon, writes Richard Ashton.

In an entertaining clash at Madejski Stadium, Exiles hit back from a 28-7 half-time deficit to earn a try bonus-point, albeit they never really threatened to pull off a shock victory.

And Kidney reflected: “Exeter are very good at what they do and that showed in the way their best play came about. It’s something for us to aspire to the way their timings are.

“We don’t play the same way but we need to match their timing. There was a lot of good play we did and what we need to do is to extend that to 80 minutes.”

Things started poorly for the hosts as Chiefs worked their way through the phases before inside centre Sam Hill crossed for a converted try in the seventh minute.

However, Irish rallied, and they levelled the scores towards the end of the first quarter when the ball was spread wide to wing Belgium Tuatagaloa to score on his home debut, Stephen Myler adding the extras.

However, things went horribly wrong for Exiles in the final seven minutes of the first half.

Firstly, with Irish pressing with a good kick ahead, Exeter’s Olly Thorburn somehow produced a fine clearance kick which stayed in field. Alvireti Veitokani chipped the ball back, but Chiefs then refused to give it away and went up the field for Dave Dennis to go over.

Further converted scores from England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and Ollie Devoto – with the final play of the opening period – gave the league leaders a commanding advantage at the break.

Things got even worse for Exiles when Hill burst through for a second try just two minutes into the second half, but the hosts once again showed their heart with a brief fightback.

Impressive No. 8 Albert Tuisue barrelled over from close range on 48 minutes, before a magnificent solo try from Academy wing Ollie Hassell-Collins – who beat numerous defenders when scything up the left-hand touchline, reduced the arrears to 14 points.

However, Exeter nullified the comeback when replacement scrum-half Stu Townsend scored with almost his first touch of the ball on 56 minutes.

With visiting pair Woodburn and Devoto sin-binned in quick succession, Irish made the most of playing against 13 men when Tongan flanker Steve Mafi powered over for his side’s bonus-point score.

However, Exeter showed their class by failing to buckle, and with Gareth Steenson completing a perfect afternoon from the tee with a penalty 13 minutes from time, the visitors were able to wind the clock down comfortably.

Commenting on the game, Kidney confessed: “In the first five minutes we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be and that put us under pressure, but we got ourselves back into it during the next 25.

“But then around the 30-minute mark there were one or two things which gave them momentum when they got their three tries before half-time. They were pivotal points in the game and it’s something we need to learn from.”

He continued: “Coming in at 28-7 down, I was very proud of the way our guys came back into it. Exeter came off the back of a big win last week (17-10 against Saracens) and leading 28-7 we could have thrown our hat in, but we really fought and we got out of it what we deserved (a bonus-point).

“There were a lot of big individual efforts and to come out of Christmas with no points at all would have been very difficult. Obviously it’s only one point, but it’s a point which could make a difference at the end of the season against Exeter. Obviously you want four, but it’s better than nothing.”

Meanwhile, Exeter head coach Ali Hepher admitted he was impressed by Exiles and backed them to fight till the end in the scrap to avoid relegation.

He said: “They caused us problems in attack and scored 28 points, so that’s a good sign for them. They’re a tough side with a few injuries at the moment, but if they field the strong sides they can do, they’ve got individuals who can hurt you all the way across the park so they’ll be in the fight. We knew if we turned up off our game, they could take advantage.”

London Irish return to European Challenge Cup action at Bayonne next Saturday (5pm), with their next Premiership clash a trip to Northampton Saints on Friday, January 24.