Ricky Pellow said he could not have asked for anything more from his Exeter Braves side as they powered their way into this season’s Aviva Premiership A League final.
In a rampant display at Sandy Park, the Braves ran in eight tries to swot aside the attentions of visiting Newcastle Falcons 48-15.
International duo Chrysander Botha (3) and Michele Campagnaro (2) led the way for the Devonians, whose other touchdowns came courtesy of Ben White, Elvis Taione and Byron McGuigan, as well as four conversions from the boot of fly-half Will Hooley.
Centre Belisario Agulla claimed both of Newcastle’s tries, one of which was converted by fly-half Brett Connon, who also added a first half penalty. However, they were no match for the Braves, who will now face Northampton Wanderers in Monday’s final at Sandy Park.
Post-match, a delighted Pellow praised the effort of his team who were cheered on by a crowd of almost 2,500 people.
"That was probably one of the best performances of the year from us," said Pellow. "Everything came together tonight. We knew they would be strong and that they would come at us in the first half, but we really squeezed them.
"In the second half some of the defensive sets we put in were outstanding, so to out that scoreline on a side like that in a competitive semi-final is very pleasing indeed. I couldn’t have asked for any more from the guys because they really fronted up well."
From the outset the Braves quickly tore into their rivals from the North East, claiming their opening try of the night inside four minutes from Italian centre Campagnaro.
By half time Pellow’s side led 22-10 before they wrapped up their success with an equally impressive showing during the second period.
"We talked about keeping the intensity high and trying to move them around as much as possible," added the Cornishman. "Our aim was to play with a tempo they could not live with. We did that in the first 20 minutes and managed to get some points up, but then they came back at us like we knew they would.
"That said, we always had the edge on them and having been tested a few times on the edges, we came through well with some really strong carries, some excellent foot work and really good offloads."
Now Pellow is hoping for more of the same in the final against a Northampton side who overcame defending champions Saracens Storm in the night’s other last four meeting.
"It’s interesting really," explained Pellow. "Three weeks ago we thought we would be going to Newcastle in the last four, then it changed to probably being Northampton away, and then Bristol beating Saracens last week meant all of a sudden we had a home semi-final instead.
"For us to get that home semi was huge and you can tell by how many people were here tonight just how much it means. To get nearly 2,500 people out on a Monday night shows the atmosphere there is around the club and the community – and having that kind of support really lifted the guys.
"Now we’ve got a home final next week and hopefully we can get another big crowd like tonight for that game as that can really drive us on."