Rob Hunter - Match Reaction
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs forwards coach Rob Hunter insisted there were plenty of positives to take away despite his side going down 31-19 to Munster Rugby in their pre-season friendly at Sandy Park.
In what was Exeter’s only competitive fixture ahead of next week’s Gallagher Premiership opener away to Leicester Tigers, the Chiefs used the occasion to not only get some much-needed match minutes into a large collection of their squad, but they were also able to put into place a number of new ideas to their play.
With the two sides deadlocked at 12-apiece at the break, it was the Irish province who made the most of second half errors from the Chiefs to secure victory in front of a crowd of over 8,000.
Cornishmen Jack Innard and Jack Nowell both crossed for the home side in the opening 40 minutes, before No.8 Rus Tuima got in on the act in the second half.
Munster replied with a brace of tries from winger Calvin Nash, as well as further touchdowns from Rory Scannell and replacements Cian Hurley and Roman Salanoa.
Despite the loss, Hunter refused to to be too downcast when giving his post-match assessment. He said: “Today was a good work out for us. Pre-season is always funny because you do a lot of running, a lot of fitness, but it’s never the same as having to get up off the ground and tackle someone full pelt.
“That was a good work-out for us - and one we really needed. As coaches, we’re reasonably happy with a lot of that performance. As we said before, the scoreline is kind of irrelevant, it was more the hard work, effort and how the guys approached the game that we were looking more closely at.
“The overall stats look pretty good, especially as we went into the game with what was a pretty restricted menu in terms of our plays. There were things we wanted to work on, which we did - and there were other things we were holding back. Overall, a lot of what we tried came off well, but there were other things that we know we need to look at this coming week.”
Among those to shine for the Chiefs was Tuima, who Hunter was quick to single out for praise. He added: “Look, Rus has worked incredibly hard over the past 12 months to improve as a player. So many of his areas have seen a real improvement and now we’re looking for him to kick on. It’s guys like him, Christ (Tshiunza), Cappers (Richard Capstick) and Josh Hodge who we are looking at to become that next bunch of players to really drive the team forward.
“Getting them out and involved today is a large part of what we are looking to achieve. Of course, there is always bits to work on, but we’re in a good place and looking forward to the season starting properly next week.”
As Hunter knows all too well, a trip to the Tigers is one of the toughest assignments on the Premiership calendar, but he believes the Munster test was just what the Chiefs needed ahead of the big kick-off.
“Going away to Leicester is always tough,” he continued. “You can see already from the pre-season games they’ve played, they are going to be big and physical. Add into the equation they’ll have a big crowd back in for the first time in a long time, it’s going to be a proper match with a fantastic atmosphere.
“Today, what Munster brought was a physical edge and they really challenged us, so hopefully that will serve us well leading into next week.”