Chiefs captain praises team mates response

Exeter Chiefs skipper Tom Hayes has admitted that Sunday’s Aviva Premiership Rugby victory over Northampton Saints was the ideal way for him and his team-mates to bounce back from their narrow defeat to Bath the week previous.

Having trailed 9-3 to the Saints at the break, the Irishman claimed his maiden Premiership try as the Chiefs produced a stunning second half showing to running out comfortable 30-9 victors at Sandy Park.

Hayes crossed the whitewash along with Fijian flyer Sireli Naqelevuki and flanker Tom Johnson to ensure Rob Baxter’s side of their eighth league win of the season.

That success meant the ninth-placed Chiefs finished their recent four-game run of Premiership fixtures having claimed three victories [against Newcastle, Harlequins and the Saints] and now lie just four points behind Bath, who sit fourth in the current standings.

Understandably, Hayes was delighted with the end outcome from his team. He said: “It was brilliant to finish off the block of four games the way we did. Also it was good to bounce back from last week against Bath, although the first half was perhaps a continuation of some of the issues we had in that game.

” Thankfully, we managed to turn it around in the second half we showed great mental strength to solve those problems and get going again.”

With Saints fly-half Stephen Myler having stroked over three penalties to just one from Exeter’s own points-machine Gareth Steenson, it was the Devon club who ruled the roost in the second period. Steenson nudged over two more penalties to level the scores before Hayes’ try kick-started the home side’s flurry of points.

“We just had to stay positive, we let them control the momentum of the game far too much in the first half,” added Hayes. “In the second half we imposed ourselves a lot more on the game and we started to get some of the momentum.

“All the time we were just saying to one another to remain positive, concentrate on our roles and that was when we managed to get things going our way.”

Hayes’ try, together with Naqelevuki’s just a minute later, gave the Chiefs a healthy 14-point cushion, but it was their defensive set which followed shortly after that really pleased their on-field leader.

“I guess that shows how we are maturing as a team,” said Hayes. “To follow up those two tries and then put in that massive defensive set which led to TJ’s try shows real mental strength and what we are all about.

“We weren’t happy to just sit back on our lead, we wanted to keep working hard for one another because there was still a fair amount of time in the game to go.”

Packing down alongside Hayes was Samoan international Chad Slade, who was one of three changes the Chiefs made to their line-up from that which had lost 12-9 to Bath.

Slade came in for James Hanks; Phil Dollman was handed a start at centre in place of Jason Shoemark, whilst Fijian powerhouse Nemani Nadolo was given a maiden Premiership start on the wing with Matt Jess dropping down to the bench.

Despite the reshuffle, the well-drilled Chiefs went about their work masterfully.

“We are moving forward and improving all the time,” said the captain. “I think it’s testament to the squad and the training the fellas are putting in that they can slot in like they did and it be some seamless.

“All season I’ve said I think the difference between this year and last is the quality of training we are now doing. Standards have definitely risen a notch or two and I think that is down to not only working hard, but the other fellas within the squad playing in things like the A League games and every one of us pushing each other hard in training.”

Such efforts have clearly worked a treat so far for the Chiefs, who have been given this week off to recharge their batteries before returning to training next week.

“We grateful for the break,” said Hayes. “We’v

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