Simmonds leads the way against Bath
By Mark Stevens
Sam Simmonds said he and his Exeter Chiefs team-mates had provided the ‘perfect response’ to their setback at Harlequins with last Saturday’s resounding home win against local rivals Bath Rugby.
For a second successive home game, Rob Baxter’s side helped themselves to eight tries in an emphatic 57-20 victory that ensured they remain top of the Gallagher Premiership by five points.
No.8 Simmonds helped lead the charge for the Devonians, scoring two of the Exeter tries – one in each half – whilst there were further touchdowns for Olly Woodburn (2), Tom O’Flaherty, Elvis Taione, Jannes Kirsten and Jack Maunder.
Although Bath countered with three tries of their own during the second period, they were no match for the Chiefs, who had been looking to bounce back at the first attempt following their last-gasp defeat at Harlequins seven days earlier.
“It was the perfect response,” said England international Simmonds post-game. “We thought we had played alright in areas [at Quins], but it wasn’t what we call a Chiefs performance. Our set-piece wasn’t great on the day and it Quins’ an area to attack us. That said, the game still went to the last minute and we came out just on the wrong side of the result. Today was much better.”
Indeed, it was. From minute one the Chiefs set the attacking tone, producing a performance that was full of pace, power and precision.
Simmonds added: “We talked in the week about the previous week, but we quickly moved on from that and the focus switched to what we could bring, not what Bath would do. I think we showed in spades today what we are capable of. To score 50 plus points again shows what we can do and how we are going to build from the business end of the season.”
That business end the 25-year-old refers to will come thick and fast over the coming weeks and months, although the Chiefs will have the chance to recharge their batteries momentarily this week as there are no top-flights fixtures being played.
“There are still bits and pieces for us to work on,” continued Simmonds, who has scored 12 tries in 16 appearances this season. “We conceded three tries and were lucky not to concede a bonus point near the end. We know we need to tighten up in that area, just because we don’t want those teams in and around us picking up points. If they do, that will just make our jobs harder later in the season.”
It was, however, another impressive display from Simmonds, who along with younger brother Joe, have been helping steer the Chiefs to the summit of the Premiership this season. Fly-half Joe landed five conversions and a penalty in Saturday’s success, taking his seasonal tally in the top division to that of 93 points.
Like many, Sam was quick to praise the ever-emerging talents of his younger sibling, who in recent weeks has also taken on the captaincy of the Chiefs in the absence of players such as Jack Yeandle and Dave Dennis.
“I definitely feel he’s a different player to even a season ago,” said Simmonds. “From where he was two or three years ago, he’s made huge strides, not just in his attack play, but the way he takes the ball to the line and the way he can beat defenders.
“Right now, he’s also captain and you can see he is growing into that role as well. Although he’s young, he very knowledgeable about the game and he knows what he Is going. It great for me, it’s great for the team and it’s great for our family.”
Saturday’s win ensured the Chiefs came out of this latest four-week block in the Premiership with three victories and it’s given them the perfect launch pad to attack the remainder of the season, which continues with the visit of Leicester Tigers to Sandy Park on March 21.
“It’s been a great month for us,” said Simmonds. “We’ve had three big wins, plus we got a losing bonus point up at Harlequins, so it’s been a decent return as such. Now, we’ve got a short break, we can rest up a bit, then we’ll be back in and looking to get straight back on it again. We’ve got two massive games in the league coming against Leicester and Sale, then it’s the big one against Northampton in the Heineken Cup.
“They are games which I think everyone is looking forward to, including us as players, so we’ll use these next few weeks to really crank things up.”