Hayes aims to build on win
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs have been given the perfect foundation from which to build their new Aviva Premiership campaign, says skipper Tom Hayes following his side's 43-6 opening day win over Sale Sharks.
The Devon club, who last term narrowly missed out on the end of season play-offs, kicked-off their new season in some style as they ran in six tries in an impressive display against Bryan Redpath's Sharks at Sandy Park.
Winger Matt Jess (pictured) helped himself to a try double, whilst there were also touchdowns for Ignacio Mieres, Aly Muldowney, Tom Johnson and veteran prop Chris Budgen. Mieres and Gareth Steenson shared the remainder of the home side's points with the boot, whilst also Sale could counter with were two penalties from fly-half Nick MacLeod.
Exeter's win was their fifth successive scalping of the Sharks and Hayes was keen to praise the all-round effort put in by the Westcountry outfit.
"It was certainly a very good start and one which we won't complain too much about," said the Irishman afterwards. "We'd have taken that this morning if someone had said that would have been the end scoreline - and there were lots of positives that we can look to build on and move forward with.
"As always we won't get too carried away just because of one result. There were lots of things today that we're close run things, like for example TJ's try, where he fell over before grounding it. On another day that may not have been a try and the chance gone, but things went for us today and we've got massive positives to take from the game."
The win ensured that the Chiefs have now won all three opening day fixtures since their elevation into the Premiership back in 2010 and Hayes is hopeful they can continue their run of form at Northampton Saints this Sunday.
Franklin's Gardens, however, has not been a happy hunting ground for the Chiefs who have lost on their two previous occasions in the Premiership.
"In two visits up there we've come away with just a point," added Hayes. "We know it won't be an easy game and we know we probably won't be favourites, but it's one of those challenges we have to face up to and we'll go there trying to be as positive as we can and see what we get from the game."
Certainly the Chiefs were positive in the way they attacked the Sharks at the weekend. Although the first half was a keenly contested affair, Rob Baxter's side were ruthless in the second period as they cruised to the club's record Premiership victory.
"We have improved game on game over pre-season and we probably did see the fruits of that work today," said Hayes. "We got our game right and our intensity was right up there. Our skill level wasn't 100 per cent, but that's something we're striving to do whilst trying to maintain that same intensity. That's a big goal moving forward, we want to keep that intensity up all the time otherwise you get punished at this level. It's just a matter of getting the skill levels up as well.
"We know we have been in a game because Sale stretched us a few times out there. However, credit to all the boys because we worked very hard and we snuffed them out. Our cover defence was very good all day and that's another big positive to take into not only next week, but the rest of the season as well."