Exeter Chiefs Academy coach Rob Gibson hailed the performance of the club's youngsters as they put fellow Aviva Premiership side London Welsh to the sword with a 42-15 win in their opening match in this season's LV= Cup in Oxford yesterday.
The Chiefs, who fielded a mix of fringe first-team men and exciting youngsters, ran in six tries in an emphatic victory against a Welsh line-up showing only five changes from the previous week's 16-9 league victory over Bath.
It was a stunning display, and a delighted Gibson said: "It was a very, very good victory, but one the boys had to earn. It wasn't given to them.
"It was a close score at half-time, but they dug deep, and the young players showed a bit of flair, and the older players showed some really good leadership qualities.
"The scoreline perhaps flattered us in the end, but what a scoreline it was!"
The match provided a chance for several players to get some valuable game-time under their belts, and to stake a claim for a first-team place when the Premiership resumes in two weeks' time, and they certainly did that.
"There are always points to prove and an element of pressure on the players, but they did all they could," said Gibson. "They played very close to a Premiership side, who had come off the back of beating Bath, so what more could you ask of them?"
Welsh came right back into the contest midway through the second half when two penalties by former Scotland fly-half Gordon Ross made it only 18-15 to the Chiefs, but Exeter pulled clear in the closing stages.
"It is all about game management, and I think at times it probably got away from us just for little spells," Gibson explained.
"There were just a couple of situations where we took the wrong option or missed a tackle, and it let Welsh back into the game, but fair credit to the lads. There was some exciting play from the likes of Jack Nowell – from all the players, to be honest – and they just didn't give up."
Gibson found it a particularly satisfying afternoon as he has worked so hard, together with the likes of coach Ricky Pellow, with a number of the youngsters to bring them through to the edge of first-team level.
"I am absolutely delighted with them," he said. "The young players are coming in and standing up, but I am also delighted from a coaching point of view for the senior players as well.
"All the talk is of the younger players, but there are some senior players there who battle hard week in and week out, and who have not had a lot of first-team exposure in the last few weeks, so I am delighted for them as well."
The match marked the welcome return from lengthy injuries of tight-head prop Hoani Tui (hamstring) and Australian centre Myles Dorrian (broken hand). "Hoani made a very good contribution and that will give Rob Baxter more options in the first-team squad, so that's nice, and it was also good to see Myles back in action," said Gibson.
Exeter play their second group match at home to Ospreys next Saturday (5pm), and the Welshmen will be buoyed by their 33-27 victory over Gloucester on Friday at a very wet Liberty Stadium.
"They are a youthful side, it should be an entertaining game next weekend and I am looking forward to it," said Gibson. "We couldn't read much into Ospreys' game on Friday because the weather was so bad that how they played might be completely different to how they approach it next weekend.
"We don't know what team we will put out yet, but everyone is keen to play and the feeling in the club is good."