Warriors secured a losing bonus point but deserved more for a courageous display against last season’s Gallagher Premiership runners-up.
Two first half tries from Perry Humphreys rattled Exeter and Warriors dug deep in defence to hold on to their lead until prop Harry Williams crashed over five minutes from time.
Just as they had in last month’s Premiership Rugby Cup match – albeit with a different side – Warriors tackled themselves to a standstill and forced Exeter into a succession of handling errors.
Having reduced their penalty and error count from the previous two weeks it was ironic that the match turned on two of those basics.
Warriors were in no danger when Exeter knocked on close to halfway and referee Tom Foley played advantage. But Warriors were then penalised for charging in at a ruck and the penalty opened the door for Exeter who won the lineout and muscled Matt Kvesic over for a try.
Williams’ try came after a 32-phase move from Exeter but that stemmed from an error when a kick went straight into touch after the ball had been taken back into the 22.
That again gave Exeter an attacking lineout and although Warriors defended heroically the pressure eventually wore them down and Williams ploughed over.
For the third time this year Exeter and again emerged with plenty of credit from a spirited display against one of the top sides in England.
Exeter struck the first blow when Joe Simmonds landed a seventh minute penalty but Warriors provided the perfect response with a try straight off the training ground.
Cornell du Preez set it up beautifully by popping up a pass to Humphreys who sliced through Exeter’s defence with a perfectly-timed angled run.
Duncan Weir added the extras and then levered over a long range penalty to increase Warriors’ lead after 16 minutes.
Warriors put in another huge defensive shift which throttled Exeter and then they then turned defence into attack to score their second try.
Exeter kicked a penalty to touch on Warriors’ 22 but their hooker Jack Yeandle overshot his jumpers and Sam Lewis snaffled it. The ball ran loose and Lewis harried two Exeter defenders before regaining possession.
Slick handling then created the overlap with Niall Annett delivering the scoring pass for Humphreys’ second try.
Weir made a difficult conversion look simple and he almost got over the line himself when the ball again went loose and he dribbled through then collected but was bundled into touch at the cornerflag.
Having frustrated Exeter for 39 minutes, Warriors were eventually unpicked by a sustained attack from the Chiefs with scrum-half Jack Maunder nipping in on the stroke of half-time and Simmonds adding the conversion.
Warriors denied Exeter another opportunity in a try-less third quarter but then lost the initiative with the penalty that led to Kvesic’s try which Simmonds improved.
Weir regained the lead with a well-struck penalty after 69 minutes but the door was left open for Exeter who needed no second invitation to burst through it.
A sustained close-range attack eventually wore Warriors down and led to Williams ploughing over five minutes from time with Simmonds again converting.
Warriors | 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ashley Beck, 12 Ryan Mills (C), 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Michael Heaney, 1 Callum Black (Waller 50), 2 Niall Annett (Taufete’e 55), 3 Conor Carey (Palframan 50), 4 Anton Bresler (Fatialofa 55), 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Ted Hill, 7 Sam Lewis (Mama 35), 8 Cornell du Preez (van Velze 58).
Replacements | 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Michael Fatialofa, 20 GJ van Velze, 21 Marco Mama, 22 Gareth Simpson, 23 Francois Venter.
7m | Simmonds pen 0-3
9m | Humphreys try 5-3
10m | Weir con 7-3
16m | Weir pen 10-3
27m | Humphreys 15-3
28m | Weir con 17-3
39m | Maunder try 17-8
40m | Simmonds con 17-10
65m | Kvesic try 17-15
66m | Simmonds con 17-17
69m | Weir pen 20-17
75m | Williams try 20-22
76m | Simmonds con 20-24