Exeter’s new kids on the block primed for Premiership playoff push

Zack Wimbush scores a try - Exeter's new kids on the block primed for Premiership playoff push
Zack Wimbush impressed as he helped Exeter beat Newcastle at home - Getty Images/Bob Bradford

Exeter Chiefs 25 Newcastle Falcons 16

Given little-to-no hope by certain observers at the start of the season, Exeter’s new kids on the block are continuing to cause quite a stir this term.

The Chiefs’ youthful side are back among the playoff positions and they secured the bonus point they wanted inside the opening half thanks to tries from Greg Fisilau, Zack Wimbush, Scott Sio and Rus Tuima.

“The lads could have made a lot of excuses and they didn’t make any,” said Chiefs Director of Rugby Rob Baxter at the final whistle. “We had to make changes to the starting line-up. Ethan Roots then took a bang literally in the last 30 seconds of our warm-up and we had to change him and then we don’t start well, we get a couple of things wrong defensively and we are seven points down on a wet and windy day.

“But we just knuckled down, we got on with it and we slowly worked our way back into the game, we scored our tries to get the bonus point, and although we were a little edgy at times in the second half, I am impressed with the lads, because they could have got a lot wrong today, and instead they got a lot right.”

Steve Diamond – whose side could have snatched a late losing bonus point had Brett Connon added a fourth successful penalty with the last kick of the game – could see positives in Newcastle’s performance.

“Our first-half discipline wasn’t very good, we had two players sin-binned [Guy Pepper and Bryan Byrne] during the game and gave an opportunist try away,” he said. “The second-half performance I felt was pretty good.

“Taking Newcastle from where they have been in the doldrums, not really being competitive – I thought we were competitive today against a good side who don’t lose many at home. With a little bit more skill and knowledge we’ll be able to pick up some wins during the remainder of the season, because the lads are working hard.

“I know we had the kick at the end to get a bonus point, but I don’t attach any blame to Brett there.”

Rus Tuima scores Exeter's third try
Rus Tuima scores Exeter's third try as they as they secured the bonus-point before half time - Getty Images/Bob Bradford

As the leading trainers around the country ready themselves for next month’s Grand National, so English rugby’s thoroughbreds are limbering up for the what should be an enthralling final furlong in the Premiership season.

After two months of sporadic action while the Six Nations was played out, domestic duties returned with the leading runners and riders all jostling to get themselves the advantage for the chance to land the big prize at Twickenham in June.

However, if this was an indication of what is to come, the next few weeks will need to see some marked improvements.

Although the start was encouraging, Newcastle Falcons flyer Ben Stevenson thundering over the whitewash inside two minutes to give his side a perfect start, what followed - particularly during a turgid second half – will certainly need some real attention to detail.

The Falcons, languishing at the foot of the table and without a win all season, were competitive to a point. But the hosts never needed to crack the whip at any stage in the match.

The bonus point should have been the launchpad for a further second half charge. Instead it turned into an arduous arm-wrestle in which penalties – 27 of them in total – meant the contest became a stop-start affair with little value to the paying public.

Match details

Exeter Chiefs: J Hodge; D John, Z Wimbush, J Hawkins (W Rigg 67), O Woodburn; H Skinner, W Becconsall (S Townsend 60); S Sio (D Southworth 67), J Yeandle (c, D Frost 67), J Iosefa-Scott (M Street 22); R Tuima (J Dunne 75), L Pearson; J Vermeulen, R Capstick, G Fisilau (R Vintcent 60). Replacements: W Haydon-Wood
Newcastle Falcons: E Obatoyinbo, A Radwan, T Penny, R Jennings, B Stevenson (M Moroni 43, Blamire 76); B Connon, S Stuart (B Douglas 78); A Brocklebank (P Brantingham 45), J Blamire (B Byrne 70), E Bello (R Palframan 43); P van der Walt (J Kelly 70), S de Chaves; F Lockwood (S Cross 11-23, 63), G Pepper, C Chick (c).
Yellow Card: Pepper, Byrne
Referee: Jack Makepeace
Attendance: 11,940
Scoring sequence: Stevenson Try (0-5), Connon Con (0-7), Fisilau Try (5-7), Connon Pen (5-10), Wimbush Try (10-10), Sio Try (15-10), Connon Pen (15-13), Tuima Try (20-13), Hodge Con (22-13), Connon Pen (22-16), Hodge Pen (25-16)

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