Warriors produced a stunning and abrasive team performance to beat the two-times champions for only the second time in the Gallagher Premiership.
A hat-trick of tries from Alex Hearle, his first for Warriors, and two spectacular long-range efforts from Noah Heward and Harri Doel plus five conversions from Fin Smith secured a bonus point win in front of the biggest league crowd of the season at Sixways.
The extra point saw Warriors equal their best try bonus point haul for the season – six – set in the 2018/19 campaign.
Hearle may have made the headlines but this was very much an outstanding team performance with every player who took the pitch contributing to a famous win, Warriors’ first against Exeter at Sixways in the Premiership.
The two clubs fought out some titanic battles in what is now the Championship and this was right up there for tension and drama.
Exeter had to play 65 minutes with 14 men after centre Tom Hendrickson was sent off for a clash of heads with Sione Vailanu.
The incident was accidental, but under the current laws, referee Anthony Woodthorpe had little option but to go to a straight red card after he had viewed footage of the incident.
Hendrickson’s dismissal did not stop Exeter from causing Warriors problems at the scrums and mauls but a dominant display from Graham Kitchener helped to disrupt their lineout at critical stages of the game.
Warriors also lost Vailanu, who failed a head injury assessment, but Jack Forsythe, who has spent the season playing three leagues down on loan at Luctonians, compensated with an industrious performance which included 22 tackles.
Warriors were committed to playing an expansive game to stretch Exeter and run their big pack around but they also had to defend determinedly for long periods to frustrate the Chiefs.
Hearle’s opening try, after a break from Willi Heinz, came shortly after Exeter went down to 14 men but the lead lasted only ten minutes before Exeter levelled then went ahead with two tries in a five minute period.
First number eight Santiago Grondona went over from close range then wing Tom O’Flaherty capitalised after a loose ball deflected from a Warriors hand into his.
But Warriors showed resilience by going straight back down the other end and working the overlap for Hearle’s second from a penalty kick to the corner.
That put Warriors level at the break and they regained the lead five minutes into the second half when Heward went the length of the pitch. Exeter appeared to be queuing up to score in the north west corner but the full-back read the play superbly and outpaced Olly Woodburn to score his fourth try in three games since he returned from a broken ankle.
Exeter reduced the deficit to two points when hooker Jack Innard was driven over from a lineout drive but Joe Simmonds was unable to add the conversion.
Warriors responded swiftly and decisively with Doel, who had only just come on as a replacement, jinking and wriggling his way out of tackles on his own 22, chipping ahead and then dotting down at the other end after Exeter full-back Josh Hodge stumbled.
Hearle’s deadly finishing brought up his hat-trick three minutes later, stepping and weaving his way to the line to put Warriors 16 points clear. Hearle’s hat-trick was the fourth by a Warriors player in the top flight following Bryce Heem v Northampton in November 2017, Josh Adams v Sale Sharks in April 2019 and Francois Hougaard against Sale Sharks in April 2021.
But there was still drama to come as replacement hooker Max Norey and flanker Dave Ewers were both shunted over from lineout drives to set up a tense finale.
Crucially, Simmonds struck the left post with his attempt to convert Armand’s try and Warriors kept it tight for the final three minutes to secure the win.
Warriors | 15 Noah Heward, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Oli Morris, 12 Ashley Beck (Doel 61), 11 Alex Hearle, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Willi Heinz (Simpson 70), 1 Murray McCallum, 2 Niall Annett, 3 Christian Judge, 4 Joe Batley (Clegg 75), 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Ted Hill (C), 7 Matt Kvesic, 8 Sione Vailanu (Forsythe 15).
Replacements | 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Kai Owen, 18 Jack Owlett, 19, Justin Clegg, 20 Jack Forsythe, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Billy Searle, 23 Harri Doel.
16m | Hearle try 5-0
17m | Smith con 7-0
26m | Grondona try 7-5
27m | Simmonds con 7-7
31m | O’Flaherty try 7-12
32m | Simmonds con 7-14
34m | Hearle try 12-14
35m | Smith con 14-14
45m | Heward try 19-14
46m | Smith con 21-14
62m | Innard try 21-19
65m | Doel try 26-19
66m | Smith con 28-19
68m | Hearle try 33-19
69m | Smith con 35-19
72m | Norey try 35-24
73m | Simmonds con 35-26
76m | Ewers try 35-31