Match Reaction - Ali Hepher
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs head coach Ali Hepher praised his side’s ambition to play after they swept aside the challenge of visiting Worcester Warriors in Round Four of the Gallagher Premiership.
The Devonians were in rampant form at Sandy Park, scoring six tries in a very much one-sided encounter. Facundo Cordero and Sam Simmonds both bagged two tries apiece, whilst there were further touchdowns for Dave Ewers and Joe Simmonds.
Skipper Henry Slade slotted the opening five conversions, before Joe Simmonds added the extras to his own score to wrap things up for last season’s beaten finalists.
In reply, Worcester offered very little resistance and their sole reward was a late consolation score for lock Justin Clegg.
Post-game, Hepher was quick to salute the display of the Chiefs, who were buoyed by the return of British & Irish Lions trio Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds for the first time this season.
The talented trio all started, along with fellow tourist Stuart Hogg, and played their part in helping the Chiefs build on their win from the previous week against Sale Sharks.
“We turned a corner last week and we carried it through into this week, which was important,” explained Hepher. “The performance showed there are still bits to work on – our ball retention wasn’t what it should have been and we tried to force too many off-loads, but the ambition of the players to play was fantastic.”
After a scoreless opening quarter, it was the Chiefs who kicked into overdrive for the remainder of the first half, scoring three converted tries by the break. The second half continued to be bossed by the home side, who stretched their lead to 42-0 before the Warriors struck late on.
Hepher added: “You have to appreciate any Premiership win – the bonus point just tops it all off. We know there are still areas for us to work on, but we’ve made changes already and you can see they are starting to work for us.
“Getting the Lions boys back is obviously great, they help thicken the squad out, but they are going to take a bit of time to get up and running. The good thing is we’ve managed to get metres into them today and, hopefully, over these next few weeks we’ll really start to see the best of them.
“Equally, though, the guys who have been here and playing have done a great job. We won up at Sale last week without them, so there is plenty for us to work with moving forward.”
The return of Sam Simmonds, the Premiership’s record-breaking try-scorer last season, was certainly a high point for the Chiefs and it didn’t take the free-scoring No.8 to make his mark, scoring two of Exeter’s six tries on the day.
“Sam showed his quality throughout and it was good to see all our Lions back,” said Hepher. “We have to utilise them while we can because they will be joining up with their countries in a few weeks.”
In his likely absence, though, the Chiefs certainly have plenty of stock in reserve, most notably young back-row forward Richard Capstick, who produced another eye-catching display.
He is one of a number of young Chiefs making great strides and Hepher was quick to salute his on-field efforts, adding: “We’re really seeing the growth of Cappers recently and his qualities over these past two weeks have been right up there. The fight he has brought shows that I don’t think he’s too far away from progressing his career further.
“Equally, there are others too who are really showing their worth. Tom Hendrickson is showing he’s more than capable of playing at this level – as is the likes of Jack Innard, Billy Keast and Christ Tshiunza. Right through the team you can look at guys pushing for places.”
Next up for the Chiefs is Saturday’s visit to Wasps and Hepher acknowledges his team will again need to be on the top of their game if they are to get anything from the contest.
“Right now, we’ve got to make sure we rest up and reset ourselves,” he said. “That doesn’t mean not enjoying today – because it’s important you celebrate wins – but we’ve got to come back in again next week and prepare for what will be another top Premiership encounter.”