By Mark Stevens
Ricky Pellow said he was proud of his side’s achievements despite them just missing out on Anglo-Welsh Cup glory against Leicester Tigers on Sunday.
The Tigers made the most of a strong first half display to lead 16-5 at the Twickenham Stoop courtesy of a intercept try from winger Tom Brady and 11 points from the boot of fly-half Freddie Burns.
Pellow’s Chiefs countered with a first half score for in-form winger James Short, but could not add to their tally until two minutes from time when Sam Simmonds went in for their second score, converted by Will Hooley.
Although the Devonians looked to summon something up in the dying embers of the contest, the Tigers – who were impressive in defence all afternoon – held firm to ensure they collected the Cup for a third time in their history.
Post-match, Pellow admitted it was a tough defeat to take, but insisted lessons would be learnt in the aftermath and said it was now time for the club as a whole to look forward, not back, with an exciting conclusion to the season still very much in their hands.
“We’ve just said in the changing rooms that the guys have to be proud of what they have achieved today and throughout this competition, but at the same time they have to let today’s result burn a little bit,” said Pellow.
“We have to use the disappointment to kick us on further this season. We’re disappointed, of course we are, but we have to reset ourselves quickly as we have another massive game coming up against Sale in the Premiership this weekend.”
With the Chiefs riding high in the top flight, they are second behind leaders Wasps, the focus for the entire Exeter squad will be to ensure they kick on and really push hard for the final rounds of the Premiership.
“We know where we left it out there on the field,” added Pellow. “We just gave them too much of a lead in that first half and they ripped momentum away from us.
“We came in at half time and we knew what we had to do in that second half. We threw everything at it, but Leicester defended their line very well and we just couldn’t break them early enough to put points on the board.
“It shows the character that we have within the squad that we didn’t give up and we kept fighting until the very end, but fair play to Leicester they defended their hearts out on the line and they deserved to win in the end.”
Although defeated in the end, Cornishman Pellow insists the competition has again acted as an important development tool for the club and that the exposure gleaned by a number of the club’s young players will prove invaluable in their long-term development.
“To play in this environment against what was a strong Leicester side, only good things will come from it,” continued the Exeter coach. “The likes of Joe Simmonds and Jack Maunder are young half-backs and they will learn a lot from the whole experience.
“We had plenty of other opportunities to score today and we will look at those more than missed kicks. We threw a lot at them in the second half, but we didn’t get that score early enough to put them under pressure, which is the real disappointment.”