Hepher hails Chiefs showing
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs heeded the words of their coaching team by rising to the challenge and maintaining their perfect start to the new Gallagher Premiership season with a 42-31 victory at Wasps.
A week after dismantling Leicester Tigers on home turf, the Chiefs were in equally impressive mood at the Ricoh Arena, running in six tries to ensure another maximum haul.
England duo Sam Simmonds and Henry Slade both grabbed try doubles, while there were further touchdowns for Santiago Cordero and Don Armand. Fly-half Gareth Steenson completed the job by converting all of the scores.
Wasps countered with four tries of their own through Elliot Daly, Josh Bassett, Nathan Hughes and Dan Robson to grab a losing bonus point, but it was not enough to halt Rob Baxter’s side, who sit proudly at the summit of the table after two rounds.
Post-match, head coach Ali Hepher talked up his side’s showing, saying: “We are chuffed to bits. We always get great matches against Wasps. They are a fantastic side with plenty of threats all over the field, but what we did was counter them well with our own threats, and that probably just got us over the line in the end.
“We challenged the guys a little bit with their mentality going into today and asked them what they were going to turn up with this week, because last week it was quite easy to get up for that home game.
“We played well and knew where we were at after that game but would we use that as a bit of a comfort blanket, or would we use it as a springboard to accelerate on from?
“You couldn’t question the attitude of the boys today, there were a few mistakes and bits to work on, but on the whole we are pleased to be where we are.”
Again, the Chiefs pack was instrumental in this latest success with three of their scores coming from their ruthless edge in around the visiting five-metre line.
“Rob Hunter has done a fantastic job with that set of forwards and you saw that quality come through today,” added Hepher. “Three of the tries we could have gone for kicks, but we didn’t and it’s a great repay when you have that confidence rather than just going for goal. Today it was important we kept ramming that home, which we did, but there are a few areas too improve
“The overall picture, though, was we were in right frame of mind and we dug out a great victory. Yes, there were a couple of easy scores for them where we could have done better, but we reset ourselves well and we asked them to grab hold of the game. We slipped off a little 15 minutes out which gave them an in late on in the game, but to then come back and score that try through Don, it showed great spirit and great mental approach to finish with.”
With some notable displays across the Chiefs side, it was Slade - on his first start of the season - who took the headlines, scoring a double and oozing class both in attack and defence.
Awarded the BT Sport man-of-the-match, Slade’s contribution was heralded by Hepher at the final whistle. He said: “Sladey came in for the first day of training straight off the back of the England tour and he was hungry and raised the level of the sessions because of his intensity.
“He wasn’t happy being left out, and he wanted to start the pre-season games and against Leicester, and we had to hold him back a little bit and he has had to wait his turn, with Ollie Devoto and Ian Whitten fantastic over the last few weeks, but he made an impact off the bench against the Tigers and made a statement today with his starting performance.”
Next up for the Chiefs is next Saturday’s home clash with Sale Sharks in the Premiership, kick-off at Sandy Park is 3pm.