Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter insists a tough test was exactly what the doctor ordered after his side battled their way past west country rivals Bath Rugby in the LV= Cup.
After a low-scoring first half, replacement props Carl Rimmer and Moray Low were the surprise heroes as they notched a try apiece in the second 40 minutes to earn an 18-6 victory.
The Chiefs have now opened their defence of the LV= Cup with two wins from two and a record Sandy Park crowd of 11,785 witnessed Saturday’s triumph.
It was just Exeter’s second-ever win over Bath in the tenth fixture between the clubs in what proved to be the perfect preparation for Friday’s clash against Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders Northampton Saints.
And Baxter believes the depth of the Chiefs squad, and Rimmer in particular was the key that allowed them to triumph over their local rivals.
“The bench had a good impact,” he said. “Carl Rimmer is having a try-scoring feast but he is playing in the way where he's meriting the scores and making the impact because he looks on form at the minute.
"I'm pleased with the squad as a whole and pleased that we haven't picked-up any serious injuries.
“We've had a tough game and we don't look perfect but I think that is always the best way to be ahead of the Northampton game."
“Many of the guys have only played in one match in the last three weeks so we needed that tough workout.
“It was pleasing that we came through the game that was in the balance going into the final quarter.
“That was something that was definitely a weakness for us last season. We've had a tough 80 minutes against a Bath team that I thought played very well despite the changes they've had.”
Exeter fielded almost a full-strength line-up but neither side were able to make a vital breakthrough in the first half – a penalty apiece for Gareth Steenson and Gavin Henson the only scoring.
Henson nailed his second penalty to give Bath a 6-3 lead early in the second period but Rimmer drove over on 61 minutes and Low sealed the victory with four minutes remaining.
Bath first-team coach Darren Edwards insists his side can take plenty of positives from the game but felt his young side deserved better than the result they got.
“We were disappointed having lost because we had a bunch of young guys who really wanted to prove themselves in that Bath shirt,” he said.
“We are really proud of them because they put in a good performance. The game swung on two incidents where we were in control of the situation but that is rugby for you.
“It was a tight game and a good battle. We know that the season will be tested on our squad strength and the squad is performing well.
“I thought that the forwards did really well; they battled hard particularly in that opening 20 minutes and their reward was to get a lot of scrum penalties.
“We feel confident going into our next batch of Premiership games.”
Exeter Chiefs: McGuigan; Nowell, Slade (Hughes, 78), Hill (Whitten, 65), Jess; Steenson, Chudley (Thomas, 56); Moon (Rimmer, 53), Yeandle (Cowan-Dickie, 66), Francis (Low, 56), Mumm, Welch (Caldwell, 56), Ewers (White, 36), Armand, Waldrom
Bath Rugby: Arscott; Woodburn, Banahan, Devoto, Lane (Clark, 63, Wacokecoke, 66); Henson, Young (Stringer, 60); Catt (Auterac, 56), Batty (Dunn, 60), Thomas (Palma-Newport, 65), Day, Ewels (Ellis, 55), Sisi, Northcote-Green, Houston
Replacements not used: Hooper
Tries: Rimmer, Low
Penalties: Steenson 2
Penalties: Henson 2
Referee: Craig Evans
For your definitive guide to the LV= Cup click here
Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup Final at Franklin's Gardens, Northampton on Sunday 22 March. Visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk for tickets