Under-18s slip to defeat at Saracens
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs Academy coach Ruairi Cushion admitted there were positives to take from his side’s opening fixture in this season’s Premiership Rugby Under 18s league.
Handed a testing opening away to rivals Saracens at Allianz Park, the youthful Chiefs were eventually undone 31-19 on the night.
Saracens started strongly, breaking the game’s deadlock early on when Zack Hill opened the scoring following a clever offload from from Toby Knight.
Brandon Jackson added a second try for the hosts, picking off an intercept to run in unopposed from 40 minutes. The centre then claimed his second of the game, working his way in-field to crash onto a short Sam Bryan pass before using impressive footwork to beat three Exeter defenders and dot down.
At 19-0 down, the Chiefs needed a response of sorts quickly. Thankfully, they got it when Milo Hallam claimed their first points with a try, converted by Iran Jenkins, just past the half-hour mark.
Hallam claimed another score after the break, but that sandwiched a bonus point score for the Londoners, which came courtesy of Wilson Ijeh.
Saracens rounded off their scoring when Samson Adejimi was helped over the whitewash from close range by team-mate Tom Mills to make it 31-14.
To their credit, the Chiefs refused to lie down and late on their efforts were rewarded when back-row forward Jake Bond claimed their third try of the contest. Sadly, it was all a little too late for the visitors, who had to return back to Sandy Park empty handed.
Post-game, Cushion said: “For a first game, we felt there were huge positives in the performance from the group as a whole. Obviously, we were disappointed with certain areas of our game,but we will use the Christmas period before our next game with Bath to try and iron out a few of those issues.
“If we defend with the aggression and intensity that we showed against Saracens, plus improve some of our thought processing in key moments, then we can create lots of opportunities and defend for longer.”
Cushion added: “We are excited about improving and being better next time out against Bath. The learning curve is quick and steps at this level and I am excited to see how the players improve and adapt to push their performance to another level versus Bath.”