Pellow praises fighting spirit
By Mark Stevens
Ricky Pellow praised the fighting spirit of his Exeter Chiefs side as they booked a fourth successive Anglo-Welsh Cup final appearance with victory over Newcastle Falcons.
Stu Townsend gave Pellow’s side a dream start at Sandy Park, claiming their opening score inside three minutes, but it was the visitors who hit back strongly to lead 17-7 at the break thanks to tries from Kyle Cooper and Simon Hammersley, both of which were converted by Toby Flood, who also added a penalty.
After the break, however, the Chiefs were much improved and having cut the deficit with a try from Joe Simmonds, the young fly-half capped a man-of-the-match display by booting over two match-winning penalties.
Exeter’s victory means they will now tackle Westcountry rivals Bath in Sunday’s Cup Final, which will be played at Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium (3pm).
Post-match, Pellow was quick to salute the achievements of his team, saying: “Full credit to the guys, we came in half time and we were the side under pressure. We started the game really well, but we were not clinical enough around the breakdown.
“The second half, we turned the screw on them and we were much better. Our exit policy and our kick game really pinned them back. We said if we could get to within seven points, they would be the team under pressure and that’s how it turned out.
“We got the try we wanted and they we got ourselves into that winning position near the end. You could see as the half was progressing our energy levels and our enthusiasm went through the roof, so I’m very proud of the group and how they turned it round to get the result.”
It was young playmaker Simmonds who took many of the plaudits, producing another impressive display despite his tender years.
“We asked Joe to go out and control the game, which he did superbly,” added Pellow. “His chat and his communication were outstanding and to then deal with the pressure of what proved to be the winning kick, it just shows the type of character he is and how much he has grown, not just in this Anglo-Welsh block, but across the whole season.
“Joe was outstanding out there today and he led the side well, but I thought there was a group of players who put in 40 minutes of rugby that were just based around character and fight. It wasn’t pretty, but to get that result at the end, it was very pleasing.”
As well as Simmonds, the performance of the Chiefs pack was another huge positive with props Moray Low and Greg Holmes winning a number of scrum penalties, while behind Matt Kvesic and the returning Dave Dennis also caught the eye.
“Our front five really put the screw on Newcastle at scrum time,” continued Pellow. “Whereas our line-out was under pressure at times, the scrum really got us back into the game and won us a number of penalties that allowed to get territory from which to attack and get points. I can’t praise the forwards enough for their efforts, especially against was a very good Newcastle eight.
“They came together very well, but so too did the whole group. As I said, we showed real character in that second half. It was emotional, backs-to-the-wall stuff come the end, but we got the result and that’s one I am sure will stick in the memory for years to come.”