Chris Bentley: We have something special at Exeter that money can't buy
WATCHING the game over the weekend, I was bowled over. My surprise was not at the fact that we had beaten the then-league leaders on their own patch – I'd tipped something special just last week. Nor was it at the Test-quality performance from Steeno at 10 – with a few doubters in his midst, the Music Man was always going to put them right. Nor indeed was it at the all-new front row (each of whom were Championship players last term) more than holding their own – the depth of our squad has never been in doubt.
What did amaze me was how everyone involved with the Chiefs was so linked to the 15 on the pitch. Watching the Sky broadcast, the cameras panned up to the coaching gantry quite a bit and the emotional roller-coaster Rob and Ali were travelling on was plain to see. Gone was the calm and calculated media savvy boss and here was the man living the game with his charges. The catharsis was clear for all to see when Luke Arscott scored the killer blow.
Move down to the touchline and once again the animation of the replacements, medical staff and support team was evident for all to see. Indeed, the lively celebrations from our very own 'Mr Cool' match day co-ordinator Keith Fleming will no doubt be a video for the squad to enjoy when they come back next week.
As the camera panned yet further around I could see the most vociferous and passionate of fans in the Premiership, in full tribal make up, also chanting for all they were worth.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Whereas some teams have to display their club's virtues in writing on the stand, look for gimmicks (fat lady, anyone?), or self-proclaiming songs (those men from Watford again) to create an artificial and somewhat sterile feeling of teamship, we at the Exeter Chiefs have something very special that cannot be replicated for all the money in the world and is starting to gain notice throughout the league.
Not only have we been named as the best matchday experience in a survey of each of the Premiership clubs, but we've now been added to the long list of prospective World Cup venues – no mean feat considering that only Gloucester's iconic Kingsholm is the only other club ground to be considered. Right now the sky really is the limit for the Exeter Chiefs!
I was fortunate enough to see a fair bit of rugby this weekend and it was pleasing to see that not only are the Chiefs flying the flag for the South West, but the officials of the region are also rather prevalent. Indeed, of the six top-tier games to take place, two had a man in the middle from Devon.
David Rose has been around for quite some time and was calling games when I started playing pro so is nigh-on ancient but it's also great to see Luke Pearce now getting a regular run.
Following in his father's footsteps, Luke has enjoyed a meteoric rise that could see him officiating at the World Cup in a few years' time if he carries on the way he's going. With the announcement this week, he may even be doing it on his home patch!
Coupled with the hot-shot ladies referee Sara Cox, I for one am heartened to see that the South West really is becoming hotbed of rugby talent both from a playing and officiating standpoint.
Yet another shining example of the Exeter Chiefs academy was on display last weekend when three of the under-18 guys turned out for the victorious England side, with Stu Townsend scoring two tries.
Stu spent a decent chunk of the pre-season working with the full-time squad and it's great to see the experience has paid dividends, with a rather eye-catching display alongside the two other starlets, Luke Chapman and Charlie Hewitt.
Looking out at training last week, I was amazed to see the quality of our current squad. As the forwards were going through their paces, the backline was running against those outside the starting seven. I took a moment to look at the pedigree of those running in bibs.
At nine was Junior Poluleuligaga, a Samoan and Pacific Island international, at 10 and 11 were Ignacio Mieres and Gonzalo Camacho, both Argentine internationals, running at 12 was Sam Hill, the current England under-20 starter, Josh Tatupu was at 13, another Samoan international, while at 14 was Watisoni Votu, himself a Fijian international, and backing them up was England under-20 fly-half Henry Slade.
To think that a backline who are all of international calibre can't make the team goes to show just how impressive a squad we currently have.
On the back of as good a win as the Chiefs have had, I didn't expect to be spending the night sat in the local emergency department.
Unfortunately that was where Mrs Bentley and I ended up. A very poorly daughter meant that rather than partying the night away with avid Chiefs fans Mo and Simon at the Royal Clarence, we were fretting over a child that couldn't keep any food down.
Fortunately the staff at Devon's finest were fantastic to a man and by 4am we were heading back to Bentley Towers exhausted but with a healthy daughter.
The emergency department can be a rather traumatic and emotional place to be. It's in a place like this when sport may suddenly seem less relevant and yet it's through this sporting column that I wanted to thank all of the staff involved for their help and assistance with our little Bea.
And finally, last week I paid mention to the Chiefs outdoorsmen Haydn Thomas and Simon Alcott and their less-than-hygienic practices.
I've had a complaint that the column inferred that these two characters may not be the sharpest tools in the shed. It is therefore my duty to clarify that Haydn Thomas does actually have a first class honours degree in chemistry and is without a doubt a very intelligent man. Simon Alcott, however, does not!
Until the next time, stay safe and enjoy your rugby.
Next week's column is dedicated to the Chiefs tribe. If you send questions to me on twitter @ccbentos, the paper @expressandecho or the boss @echosportnick, I'll endeavour to get the details!