Chiefs in 'good shape' - Hunter
By Mark Stevens
Rob Hunter says Exeter Chiefs are in “good shape” after they wrapped up the opening block of Aviva Premiership fixtures with a 34-24 victory over Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park.
The defending champions returned to pole position, leapfrogging their rivals along the way, thanks to first half scores from Nic White, Lachie Turner and Sam Simmonds, before a penalty try after the break and the boot of Gareth Steenson confirmed another maximum haul.
The Falcons, who had lost only once before arriving in Devon, did at least claim a losing bonus point thanks to tries from Will Welch, Juan-Pablo Socino, Alex Tait and Vereniki Goneva. However, it was never enough to really trouble the Chiefs, who will now ready themselves for the start of their European Champions Cup campaign against Glasgow Warriors this Saturday.
Post-match, forwards coach Rob Hunter reflected on another decent display from his team. He said: “We’ve had a tough opening six games, like all the clubs in the division, but we’ve managed to pick up four wins and a bonus point in each game, so we’re in good shape.”
Having suffered defeat at Leicester Tigers the week previous, Saturday’s showing was the perfect response to that setback and Hunter was impressed by the way the Chiefs went about tackling one of the division’s in-form sides.
“Obviously we were disappointed after last week, but it was a good five points against a side who were joint top of the table going into the game. Six matches in you have got to take notice of that, you don’t get to that position by accident, so to get five points against another top four side is pretty pleasing.”
But ever the perfectionists, Hunter insists there were still areas of Exeter’s game which will need some review, including how they let their rivals glean a crucial bonus point from their long trek to the Westcountry
“There’s plenty of stuff to look at during the review on Monday morning,” added Hunter. “We put a lot of effort into the first half I think both sides were a little bit punched out in the second period and it died down a little bit. However, I think we did a lot of damage in that opening 40 minutes.
“As we rolled into the second half, our forwards were pretty good, we drove pretty well, we scrummaged pretty well and controlled the territory pretty well.
“To be fair, we had a few loose moments in there, and you have got to give credit to Newcastle, they are walking away from Sandy Park with a bonus point, which is not something that happens regularly.
“There might be a few embarrassed faces next week when one or two things we did get replayed. That loose stuff isn’t really what we want to do. We want to be tougher than that, and we are going to need to be as we go through the season.”
Such incidents, though, are small fry when it comes to assessing the overall display of the Chiefs, who again shone brightly for large periods of the contest. Among those to catch the eye once more was returning No.8 Sam Simmonds, who bagged his fifth try of the campaign with a stunning solo effort just before the break.
Pundits have been waxing lyrical about the young forward and this latest display has again got them talking about potential England call-ups.
And Hunter acknowledges the noises being made about Simmonds, who has scored 12 tries in 17 matches in all competitions.
“Sam is going very well,” continued Hunter. “He’s doing the simple things very well and he’s really enjoying himself, which is a key factor. Every time he touches the ball, you can feel everyone gasp as he makes a break. As I said, he’s a player in great form and long may that continue.
“As a side we’re trying to get him on the ball as often as we can, and he is working hard to get his hands on the ball. When you have somebody in form like that, who is so dangerous really, it is a very nice thing to have in our armoury.
“Whether he fits what England want - and depending on who is available - we will have to wait and see. Obviously we’d love to see him go through and get that experience because it would be fantastic for him, but whether he does will ultimately come down to Eddie [Jones].”