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Sam Simmonds 'looked almost impossible to handle'

By PA
Sam Simmonds on the charge - PA

Exeter boss Rob Baxter hailed Sam Simmonds as a player “almost impossible to handle” following the Chiefs’ dramatic Heineken Champions Cup triumph against Montpellier.

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Chiefs number eight Simmonds, who will join Montpellier after the World Cup later this year, scored one try and almost added another during a pulsating round-of-16 clash.

Exeter reached the quarter-finals on try count after extra-time – they will host South African side the Stormers next weekend – after a dramatic 33-33 draw.

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Hooker Jack Yeandle’s touchdown in the final seconds of 20 minutes’ added time put Exeter within striking distance, then Joe Simmonds’ nerveless conversion meant Exeter progressed 5-4 on tries.

On Sam Simmonds’ performance, Exeter rugby director Baxter said: “He looked almost impossible to handle sometimes.

“He very nearly scored a solo try that would have written the game off and he was one of the guys who got his levels right for what he wanted to achieve today.

“We’ve had a few rollercoasters over the years. I am really pleased for the players. We’ve challenged them a bit this season around some of the highs and lows of performances.

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“We really looked like a team that wanted to win and wanted to work hard. I don’t know if them being reduced to 14 men (Montpellier’s England international number eight Zach Mercer was sent off after 50 minutes) made it harder for us. It seemed to energise them – they grew and grew.

“Overall, those emotional rollercoasters, coming through that, it shows you can make good things happen.

“We were quite rightly criticised after our away performances against Bath and Harlequins, whereas today we controlled what we wanted to do very well.”

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Mercer, meanwhile, was dismissed for a high challenge on Exeter flanker Christ Tshiunza, with the match officials monitoring numerous video replays before a decision was reached.

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Baxter added: “I just don’t like the whole process. We played London Irish a couple of weeks ago and you have the whole stadium booing every time they want a replay.

“We have to do something about it. It’s not good for the game. Whether decisions are right or wrong, this convoluted look at the replay to see whether it’s a penalty, yellow or red card with the crowd booing every collision, I just don’t like it.

“To me, that is not what rugby should be about. We should be feeling like we want the contest to be between 15 players on each side when possible, not trying to create red cards as a spectator sport. None of that is positive for the game.”

Fly-half Paolo Garbisi levelled the game at 26-26 through a long-range penalty with the final kick of normal time, then Montpellier replacement Louis Carbonel touched down midway through the second period in extra-time, and Garbisi converted, but Yeandle and Simmonds had the final say.

Exeter looked well set after tries from Scott Sio, Sam Simmonds, Tom Wyatt and Josh Iosefa-Scott left the visitors reeling, while Joe Simmonds kicked four conversions.

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Exeter impressively wiped out an early 12-point deficit handed to them through Montpellier tries by replacement hooker Curtis Langdon and wing Vincent Rattez, while Garbisi ended with three penalties and two conversions, with lock Lenni Nouchi also touching down.

Assessing Stormers’ challenge, Baxter said: “I know not many people will give us a chance against them.

“They dealt with Harlequins pretty easily (on Saturday) and Harlequins dealt with us pretty easily two weeks ago, so that’s it – game over.

“But that is quite a nice place to start from for us. We are not going to physically change much this week. We have just got to get our emotional batteries recharged.”

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