A 20-MINUTE display of dominance from Exeter Chiefs shortly after half-time decided what was until that point a hugely competitive Premiership Cup clash at the Stade Santander International.
Coming off the back of a sensational win at Bath last weekend, there was great excitement building around Jersey Reds as they hosted top-flight opposition in a competitive fixture for the first time.
Reds director of rugby Harvey Biljon described the early stages of the game as an ‘arm-wrestle’ and for much of the first-half it was a battle the Islanders were winning.
Exeter were constantly being pinged for infringements but, save for an early Scott van Breda try, the Reds probably did not get the points their play deserved, and the Chiefs were clinical when their moments arrived.
Biljon said: ‘Exeter showed us a lot of respect by selecting the side they did.
‘They were gifted a couple of scores early on by our mistakes or the bounce of the ball, and then there were three or four moments in the second-half that didn’t go our way, and they took advantage.
‘In the big games against big opposition it often comes downs to a few small moments. We let them have a couple of easy scores and that was where the game was won and lost.’
It would have been easy for Biljon to make very few changes to his side after such an impressive performance at Bath the week before, but regular rotation has been such a huge factor in the side’s recent success.
‘We made 12 changes from last week because we trust and believe in our squad,’ Biljon said. ‘We have a whole season ahead of us and will need everyone. We need to dust ourselves off. We have another big challenge. We will need to be a bit smarter, we know we can be better.’
Rob Baxter, Exeter Chiefs director of rugby, was pleased with the way his side weathered the early storm.
‘We knew it was going to be tough, it was a very competitive first-half,’ he said. ‘We knew we’d face periods of pressure and we prepared really well for that. We talked about the importance of having discipline in the middle-third of the pitch.
‘When a Championship side puts you under pressure you can either get panicky and edgy or you pull yourself together and we kept our heads.
‘We had some players who showed a lack of discipline – that is something that individually we have to get our heads around.
‘At times during the game you just have to play for territory and you can apply pressure on the opposition from there. Our set-piece is looking increasingly strong and that bodes well for the season.’
The win for Exeter means they have a five-point lead at the top of Pool C, while Bath and the Reds are level on ten points.