Hepher praises squad effort
By Mark Stevens
Ali Hepher says Exeter Chiefs are in a ‘good place’ after they extended their lead at the top of the Gallagher Premiership with a 59-7 victory over Worcester Warriors at Sandy Park.
The league leaders made it four wins from four since restart with another powerful display that yielded try hat-tricks for both Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds, as well as further touchdowns for Jack Nowell, Stuart Hogg and Jacques Vermeulen.
Worcester, who claimed a late consolation score through Ashley Beck, could not handle the power, pace and precision of their hosts, who will now ready themselves for Friday’s Round 18 trip to Northampton Saints.
Post-match, Hepher gave his assessment on this latest triumph, saying: “Look, we’re obviously delighted with the guys. You could see they put full effort into that performance. Their loads and their numbers in terms of work-rate, that’s probably our highest of the season so far.
“At half-time, we challenged the guys to keep going and keep delivering, which they did. Sometimes it can easy to take your foot off the gas when the result looks decided already but, and fair play to Worcester as well, both sides kept going and they really came back at us aggressively in that last quarter.”
Sadly for the Warriors, the Chiefs had already accrued the try bonus point inside the opening half hour and by the break they were already in total command, leading the contest 38-0.
Helping to lead the charge for the home side was man-of-the-match Hill, who became the first second row in 17 years to bag a hat-trick of tries in a Premiership game.
Hepher was full of praise for the 26-year-old and fellow forward Simmonds, adding: “It’s a fantastic achievement for both of them. Since lockdown, Jonny has come come back in a different frame of mind and he’s really knocked his game on. He’s matured nicely and you can see he’s bringing that ability he has got in terms of being athletic, he’s physical, he’s got pace, and he calls out line-out, so he’s smart as well. In terms of a lock, I don’t think you can ask for much more.
“Equally, Sam is a bit more likely to get on the try-sheet, but again he’s taken his tries well and he’s a real threat around the field. Obviously, I’d like the backs to score a few more, but at the end of the day I don’t mind who scores as long as we are getting over that try-line.”
Also on the scoresheet in his first game back since restart was Cornishman Nowell, whose sublime first half finish underlined his world class talents.
“It was a great finish by Jack in the corner,” continued Hepher. “We’re pleased with the way he has come through today, but he’s worked hard to get back. From the outset, you could see with his touches early on, that he was right on his game and that he was a handful all day. Now we’ll just look to improve him by the week and take it from there.”
With another quick turnaround for the Chiefs ahead of their upcoming trip to Franklin’s Gardens, Hepher says it will be another big squad effort to ensure those that take to the field are able to take up the challenge of continuing the club’s run of form.
“It’s not like we have a week to get ready, it’s only five days until we play again, so we make sure we dust ourselves down, see where we are, and take the learns from today and see who is fit and raring to go come Friday,” said Hepher.
“For us, it’s another massive game on the road, points are up for grabs and, like all Premiership games, it’s one we have to target. The good thing is the guys are working hard, they are gelling together, and everyone is working incredibly hard to get performances and results.
“We’ve got good strength in depth within the squad, but equally guys know that if they don’t perform there are others who are more than ready to step into their shoes. As a club, I think we’re in a good place, but we know we have to keep delivering each week.”