Exeter Chiefs assistant coach Ali Hepher insists his side are ready to take on the Aviva Premiership Rugby big boys after cruising past winless London Welsh at Sandy Park.
Early tries from Exiles duo Nathan Trevett and Seb Stegmann may have had some anticipating the most extraordinary of results but the Chiefs ultimately ran in ten tries en route to a 74-19 victory.
Thomas Waldrom crossed for his 11th and 12th league tries of the season and Exeter were awarded two penalty tries in addition to Will Chudley, Tom James, Jack Yeandle, Matt Jess, Henry Slade and Ian Whitten all dotting down once.
The comfortable victory moves them up to second in the league table but there are tougher challenges ahead as top-four rivals Northampton Saints, Leicester Tigers, Wasps and Saracens in addition to seventh-placed Sale make up the final five fixtures.
But after posting their highest Aviva Premiership Rugby score against Welsh, Hepher is adamant the Chiefs are in the best shape they can be ahead of the crunch period.
“We are excited with some big games coming up – that is what you want,” he explained. “It will be great for this young side to experience these games.
“We are going to go after them – we have a good quality side so when we approach the big teams we are going to be dangerous.
“We can't say we have nothing to lose because we have – but we are going to be excited about going after points now.
“After dropping four games over Christmas our priority was to focus on these four games. This past week we have worked harder than ever on the mental side making sure we were in good shape for this game.”
For Welsh’s part, it was the eighth time they have conceded over 50 points in the league this season.
Time is fast running out for them to record a win this term – they now have just five more chances to avoid joining Rotherham as the only team in league history not to post a victory for an entire campaign.
And after once again being completely outclassed at Sandy Park, assistant coach Ollie Smith admits that the early season mantra of ‘a first win is just around the corner’ is looking increasingly hollow.
“We'd be foolish as a group to think that we have always had a chance given how the season has gone,” said Smith.
“It has been very obvious that we have been battling against it. If we were losing games by four, five or six points we would be furious thinking, 'When are we going to get over the line?'
“But we've not been at the races so for us it is just to keep battling on because some may, or may not, be at the club next season.”
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; James, Whitten, Hill, Jess; Slade (Steenson 54), Chudley (Lewis 54); Rimmer (Sturgess 57), Yeandle (Cowan-Dickie 51), Francis (Brown 57), Mumm (Lees 54), Welch (White 59), Ewers, Armand (McGuigan 69), Waldrom
London Welsh: Kear; Stegmann, Reynolds, Tincknell (May 59), Awcock; Roberts (Robinson 40), Lewis (Davies 40); Trevett (Aholelei 52), Morris (Elloway 52), Vea (Gilding 26), West (Corker 59), Down, McCaffrey, Thorpe, Fonua (Hala’uifa 59)
Tries: Chudley, James, Yeandle, Jess, Waldrom 2, Slade, penalty 2, Whitten
Conversions: Slade 5, Steenson 4
Penalties: Slade 2
Tries: Trevett, Stegmann 2
Conversions: Roberts, Davies
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
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