They may not have claimed top prize at the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s, but Exeter Chiefs skipper Sam Simmonds insists his side’s character shone through as they claimed the spoils in the Plate competition.
After coming through a tricky Group B at Kingsholm Stadium, Exeter were handed an even harder draw at Twickenham Stoop, as they came up against a star-studded Wasps side that included the likes of Elliot Daly and Christian Wade.
And while they went down 33-5 to the eventual finalists, Exeter had a semi-final in the Plate to look forward to and edged out Newcastle Falcons 14-12.
Sale Sharks were waiting for them in the final, but this was much smoother sailing for the Chiefs as a dominant first-half performance saw Exeter surge clear to win 26-19, and ensured they would not leave the Stoop empty-handed.
And Simmonds, who scored in both of the Chiefs victories on the night, was proud of the way his side improved after their initial disappointment.
“It's a brilliant night not just for me but for all the boys,” he said. “We had a massively young squad and we have come here and turned it on in the last two games.
“We were unfortunate to lose out in our quarter-final but I think we grew throughout the tournament and finished with a massive win against Sale.
“It's a proud moment for everyone and the first bit of silverware in this tournament which is huge for us as a club.
“We showed massive character to bounce back and it's the same as the group where we didn't start too well but then stepped it up.
“We played well but Wasps blew us away with the experience they have in that side but we showed massive character to come back.
“Everyone here showed what it means to wear the Exeter Chiefs jersey, and while we didn't play the best 7s rugby at times it shows if you work hard it will work in your favour.”
It was Pete Laverick who put the Sharks on the back foot in the Plate final, and despite Nev Edwards pulling one back for Sale, it was in truth all Exeter.
Simmonds was on hand first after Exeter stole a line-out in their own half and released the skipper down the right. Stuart Townsend then extended the lead for the Chiefs, before Alex Ducker’s try made the result certain.
And after lifting the trophy, Simmonds could not understate the importance of winning silverware early on in the season for the who Exeter Chiefs squad.
He said: “I think our defence has shone through on the night really and when we didn't have the ball we stuck at it.
“We wanted to impose ourselves on the game and we did that through our defence, and of course that paid off in the end.
“This is so important for the club. Ricky Pellow who is the skills coach and head of the academy told us afterwards this was one of the proudest moments he’s had with the Exeter Chiefs.
“We had that big win in the LV= Cup two years ago now, but for these younger boys this is the proudest moment of our careers so far and we’ve learnt a lot the last couple of weeks.”
Cup Quarter-Final: Newport Gwent Dragons 26 Sale Sharks 10
Cup Quarter-Final: Gloucester Rugby 31 Harlequins 26
Cup Quarter-Final: Wasps 33 Exeter Chiefs 5
Cup Quarter-Final: Newcastle Falcons 26 Scarlets 31
Plate Semi-Final: Sale Sharks 45 Harlequins 24
Cup Semi-Final: Newport Gwent Dragons 19 Gloucester Rugby 14
Plate Semi-Final: Exeter Chiefs 14 Newcastle Falcons 12
Cup Semi-Final: Scarlets 12 Wasps 33
Plate Final: Sale Sharks 19 Chiefs 26
Cup Final: Newport Gwent Dragons 17 Wasps 12