Simmonds roars back into action
By Mark Stevens
Returning British & Irish Lion, Sam Simmonds, roared out of the cage on his first outing of the new season, helping Exeter Chiefs to a comfortable 42-5 victory over Worcester Warriors in the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday.
The free-scoring No.8 put in a stellar showing for the Devonians, picking up from where he left off last season in terms of his try-scoring exploits.
His double on Saturday capped a magical week for the 26-year-old, who alongside partner Emily, welcomed daughter Billie into the world.
Simmonds scored in each half for the hosts as they recorded their second league win of the season to put them up to sixth in the current standings.
Like fellow tourists Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill and Stuart Hogg, the flamed-haired forward has had to go through the mandatory rest period following their exertions in South Africa during the summer.
Forced to watch from the sidelines as the Chiefs endured losses against Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints in the opening fortnight, the quartet are looking to make up for lost time, particularly given his last appearance in an Exeter jersey was that of the Premiership Final last June.
“Obviously my summer started with the disappointment of the final, so I had to move on pretty quickly from that,” he said. “Within a day, we were on the plane to South Africa to be part of the Test series.
“Without doubt, it was one of the best rugby experiences of my career so far. It was a shame about the end result, but to have that experience and gain loads of new friends, many of whom you’ve come up against in the past, was like a dream come true for me.”
Not that Simmonds will be having the chance to dream too much at the moment. The arrival of his first-born has meant sleep time has been altered in the past week, but he showed no sign of it affecting him at the weekend, producing another eye-catching display.
“I didn’t get too much sleep at the start of the week, but I was in the spare room last night,” he joked afterwards. “As for the result, we needed that, especially after the last home game [against Northampton]. We did bits and pieces that were good in that game, but it wasn’t what you would describe as a complete performance.
“Last week up at Sale we saw a response from the boys and today we’ve carried that on.”
In a dominant display from Rob Baxter’s men, converted first half scores from Dave Ewers, Facundo Cordero and Simmonds gave them a 21-0 lead, which they doubled after the break thanks to further touchdowns from Cordero, Simmonds and Joe Simmonds.
Worcester claimed a late consolation score from lock Justin Clegg, but that was all they could muster on an afternoon when they were distinctly second best.
Simmonds admitted it was another solid showing from the Chiefs, but he knows he and his team-mates must continue to ask questions of one another if they are to progress to greater heights.
“If you want to be a great team, you have to be honest with one another and drive standards,” he added. “It’s not just the guys who have been away coming back in, it’s every player in the squad. If we want to be the best team in England and Europe, we need to drive those high standards.
“As I said, last week at Sale was good and today was another step in the right direction. Now, we have to push on again.”
Next up for the Chiefs is Saturday’s trip to Wasps, who themselves were victorious at the weekend, defeating previously unbeaten Northampton Saints.
“Going to Wasps is always a notoriously tough place to go,” said Simmonds. “We didn’t play well up their last season and we need to go and right some wrongs. It will be tough, it always is, but that’s kind of what you expect every week at this level.”