Leicester Tigers consolidated their position in the Aviva Premiership play-off places with a dominant 45-15 victory over Exeter Chiefs at Welford Road.
First-half tries from Manu Tuilagi, Lugovii Mulipola and Niki Goneva set the defending champions on their way to a comprehensive victory over their West Country opponents.
Having recorded their season’s highest points tally in the opening period, winger Adam Thompstone and a double from replacement David Mele added further scores in the second half.
Exeter, fresh from their first major trophy in 143 years following their LV= Cup win over Northampton Saints last weekend, rarely posed a threat to the hosts but Jack Yeandle and Ian Whitten managed consolation tries for the visitors.
With five rounds remaining, the Tigers are now unbeaten in their last seven outings and would once again appear to be coming to the boil at the right time under Richard Cockerill.
The Chiefs went into the match on the back of three successive victories themselves, including that Anglo-Welsh cup success on home soil, but were second best throughout the afternoon as their quest for a top six finish was scuppered.
Jack Nowell, on his return from international duty, was withdrawn at the interval following an early collision, and their search for a fourth consecutive win was hardly helped by Dean Mumm’s first-half sin bin for a high tackle on Ben Youngs.
Manu Tuilagi, making his first Welford Road appearance since September, worked well in tandem with midfield partner Anthony Allen throughout and Youngs, making his 100th start for the Tigers, was instrumental in all that was good about the hosts’ impressive display.
With the focus now turned to a compelling climax to the domestic season following the thrilling Six Nations finale, the Tigers travel to the Saints next weekend fully confident of closing the one-point gap on third-placed Bath.
Leicester Tigers: Tait; Goneva, Tuilagi, Allen, Thompstone; Williams, Ben Youngs; Ayerza, Tom Youngs, Mulipola; Deacon, Slater (c); Gibson, Salvi, Crane
Replacements: Hawkins, Stankovich, Balmain, Kitchener, Waldrom, Mele, Flood, Hamilton
Exeter Chiefs: Arscott; Nowell, Whitten, Dollman, Vainikolo; Slade, Lewis; Moon, Yeandle, Tui; Mumm (capt), Welch: Ewers, White, Horstmann
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Rimmer, Brown, Armand, Johnson, Thomas, Steenson, Jess