England’s Jack Nowell gave Exeter Chiefs a big boost on a day when they hammered a poor Bath side 57-20 in the Gallagher Premiership.
Nowell, who has not played since January when he damaged an ankle that needed surgery and hence missed out on England’s Six Nations campaign, was a second-half replacement as Exeter returned to the top of the table with an eight-try blitz.
Two tries each from wing Olly Woodburn and number eight Sam Simmonds and one each from wing Tom O’Flaherty, lock Jannes Kirsten, hooker Elvis Taione and replacement Jack Maunder rocked Bath, while fly-half Joe Simmonds landed a penalty and five conversions and his replacement Gareth Steenson struck over two conversions.
Bath managed tries from number eight Zach Mercer, centre Max Wright and wing Ruaridh McConnochie, with fly-half Rhys Priestland kicking a penalty and replacement Freddie Burns landing a conversion.
Exeter forwards coach Rob Hunter said it was good to see Nowell back on the field as the business end of the Premiership race looms. “It was nice to see him lurking around. He has been doing his rehab and has worked very hard to put himself in a position to play. He bumped a few folk off with his usual step and, I am sure had he come close to the line, he would have cropped up and tried to dive over with the ball.”
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It was another big home win over a top side for Exeter, having given the same sort of treatment to Northampton Saints a matter of weeks ago when beating them 57-7. Hunter added: “The guys were on it this week. It just felt in the changing room that they were right on their game. Some weeks it is like that. You can tell straight away. It is easy to say you would like it like that every week but there are other teams involved and everything has its impact.”
The Chiefs took their foot off the gas when leading 29-3 at half-time, and Hunter acknowledged: “If that scoreline is closer, then the ten minutes of half-time is different. You can say what you like in the changing room but the reality is it is not nil-nil. However many times you say just re-set, it is not because there is quite a big cushion. Often you get a foot comes off the gas.”
Chiefs back in the moodhttps://t.co/zd9ZLLDw1z
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It is the second successive reverse for Bath after a home defeat to rivals Bristol last Sunday, and their director of rugby Stuart Hooper admitted questions will be asked in camp before they face London Irish on March 21. Hooper said: “The key thing is if you look back over the games played here, as we do, turning the ball over in your own half leads to this.
“It has been seen before with Northampton who did exactly the same. You have to make sure you don’t give them easy opportunities to attack you when you are in your own half. There were a number of areas across the board that we were off. In the first half, that is not what we want to see when we pull on the Bath jersey.”
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