Exeter Chiefs exit Europe
- Credit: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK
A very tough pill to swallow this weekend with the Champions bowing out of the competition at the quarter-final stage.
A huge game at Sandy Park again without the crucial Chiefs fans, some European royalty with a high-flying Leinster side in town trying to improve upon their already impressive record versus Exeter.
The quality on both sides was clear to see with the best part of thirty international rugby players across both squads. Leinster with seventeen who were recently involved in the 2021 Irish six nations campaign.
The nature of the game really did showcase the talent on the pitch with both defences struggling to cope especially in the early exchanges.
Alas, the real difference for me was the Dubliner’s ability and smarts at the breakdown, knowing when to compete and actually having an array of players who could snaffle turnovers and force penalties to take control of possession and territory.
Full credit to them for bouncing straight back after such a strong start from the Chiefs with ‘Flats’ flying, making and finishing off tries with an early brace. Tom, by the way. sporting a sizable cut and stitches on his head, a good four inches long, which apparently exposed a bit of his skull the week before. The type of thing that could’ve kept me out for a couple of weeks at least.
In my slightly biased opinion, the respective team’s schedules may have had a huge impact on the energy and abilities of both sides. The Pro 14 Final taking place on March 27 allowed Leinster some time to recoup and prep for a huge game, whereas the Chiefs and English Premiership schedule has been packed all through this year, not allowing any time to take a breath.
Mental and physical rejuvenation plays a huge part in professional sport and if the Chiefs are to get some silverware this year, they need to use this latest disappointment well and utilise the remaining season structure to maximise performance squad confidence.
I, for one, will be expecting some sort of bounce back and a few ‘proper Chiefs’ performances in the weeks to come, and fully competing toward the later stages.