It was a tightly fought first half as both teams applied pressure on attack, but the Vodacom Bulls entered the break 20-14 ahead after scoring three tries to two by the Exeter Chiefs.
The Vodacom Bulls dominated the second half as they attacked at will and converted most of their try-scoring opportunities, which saw them add three tries to take their tally to six, while the visitors, who were reduced to 14 men in the 54th minute after captain and centre Henry Slade received a red card for a dangerous tackle, were limited to two.
Exeter set the tone for the clash early on as they made their way close to the tryline in the opening 10 minutes, although they were held out by the Pretoria side.
The Vodacom Bulls put the first points on the board in the 14th minute as Springbok No 8 Elrigh Louw dived over after gathering a pass from a ruck for a 7-0 lead.
The Exeter Chiefs hit back five minutes later as fullback Josh Hodge dashed through a gap to round off a great team try in which they spread the ball out wide from a lineout, which saw them level the scores.
Vodacom Bulls flyhalf Chris Smith nudged his team back into the lead with a penalty goal before wing David Kriel earned their second try by spreading the ball wide after winning a turnover at a ruck. This handed the hosts a 15-7 lead.
Exeter Chiefs’ Solomone Kata closed the gap as he forced his way over the chalk from a rolling maul in the 32nd minute to push the team one point behind the Vodacom Bulls with minutes left in the half.The hosts had the last say before the break as Vodacom Bulls Lock Ruan Vermaak powered his way over the tryline from a pick-and-go to push the team 20-14 ahead going into the sheds.
The started the second half off with a bang as centre Wandisile Simelane dashed through for their bonus-point try two minutes after play resumed thanks to slick hands and hooker Johan Grobbelaar followed 10 minutes later from a rolling maul.
Exeter were dealt a massive blow in the 52th minute as Slade received his marching orders for a dangerous tackle, which reduced them to 14 men for the remainder of the match.
Despite this they showed their fighting spirit with replacement Jannes Kirsten scoring in the corner from a pick-and-go in the 64th minute, but this was cancelled out soon after as Simelane scored his second try from an intercept to hand the hosts a 39-21 lead.
Exeter fought until the end, and they were rewarded with their bonus point try in dying seconds as Jack Innard touched down and the conversion by Skinner saw them settle for a 39-28 defeat.
Vodacom Bulls 39 (20) – Tries: Elrigh Louw, David Kriel, Ruan Vermaak, Wandisile Simelane (2), Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions: Chris Smith (2), Johan Goosen. Penalty Goal: Smith (1).
Exeter Chiefs 28 (14) – Tries: Josh Hodge, Solomone Kata, Jannes Kirsten, Jack Innard. Conversions: Joe Simmonds (2), Harvey Skinner (2).