Hill's treble underlines strength of Chiefs
By Mark Stevens
Exeter forward Jonny Hill believes the hard work he and his team-mates were willing to put in during lockdown will ultimately paid dividends as the Chiefs chase glory on two fronts over the coming weeks.
Rob Baxter’s side have marked their return to top-flight action with a near flawless showing in the Gallagher Premiership, securing four wins from as many games, and collecting 19 out of a possible 20 points on offer.
Their efforts, which included Sunday’s 59-7 victory over visiting Worcester Warriors, have not only cemented their place at the summit of the division, but have in fact extended their lead over next-best Sale Sharks to 14 points with just five rounds of the regular season remaining.
Hill helped lead the way in their latest success at the weekend, the towering lock claiming a hat-trick of tries as the Chiefs obliterated the Warriors with another powerful display.
The 26-year-old became the first lock since Simon Shaw in 2003 to score a hat-trick of tries, while team-mate Sam Simmonds helped himself to a treble of his own to go alongside further scores from Jack Nowell, Stuart Hogg and Jacques Vermeulen.
It was the perfect fillip for the Devonians, who on Friday travel to Northampton Saints - the same opponents they will tackle in the last eight of the Heineken Champions Cup later this month.
Post-game on Sunday, Hill was quick to praise the efforts of the whole Chiefs squad since restart last month.
“We all trained hard over lockdown and this is what we wanted,” explained Hill. “We wanted to come back in the best shape possible and we wanted to win every game.
“Since we’ve come back, we’ve just focused on ourselves, the individual intensity we can bring to games, and we’re just focusing on each moment and so far it’s paying off for us. Even though we went four tries up, you saw we didn’t take our foot off the gas.
“We want to practice winning these winning big games because we have some some big stuff coming up. We know we can’t look too far ahead but, at the same time, we have to be ready.”
With Baxter able to select from a near fully-fit Chiefs squad, the return to action has seen Hill team up with Exeter newcomer Jonny Gray in a powerful second row pairing.
The Scottish international has settled well to his new surroundings in the Westcountry and Hill has talked up the efforts of his new partner in the Exeter engine room.
“He’s come from a different league and offers us some different options,” he added. “Jonny’s got a phenomenal work-rate and he gets through lots of tackles, so it’s great to have him on board.”
Equally, others are also playing their part in driving the Chiefs forward, a point underlined when last week they paraded two completely different starting XVs for the fixtures against Bristol Bears and Worcester Warriors.
“Those boys who played on Tuesday [at Bristol] put on hell of a show,” said Hill. “It was a great result and it helped put is in a good spot moving forward. It meant we had a decent rest going into the weekend and they’ve had a decent rest since. In two weeks we’ve played four games, but the signs are really encouraging where we go this season.”