Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter hailed the Aviva Premiership debut of teenager Jack Nowell in last Sunday’s 27-23 victory at London Irish.
The 19-year-old played the full 80 minutes on the right wing and put in a very assured performance.
He could even have rounded off his big day with a 76th-minute try to secure Exeter’s victory when he received possession on halfway, chipped the ball over the covering defence and won the race to the touchdown.
The score was initially given by referee Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts, but he ruled it out after consulting with touch judge Roy Maybank, who adjudged that Nowell had knocked on in the process of grounding the ball – a controversial decision that had no impact on the final result.
Baxter said: “For a young guy to come in and play for 80 minutes and still have an involvement in the game at the end is fantastic.
“I don’t think he did too much wrong. He might well have got caught at a breakdown once or twice and was a little bit inaccurate there, but on the whole his carries were good, his kicking game was decent enough, and he defended well.
“I think he can be well happy with his first 80 minutes of Premiership rugby.” Nowell, who was born in Truro and started playing rugby as a mini-junior with the Cornish Pirates, is a product of the Chiefs’ Academy and has been named in the England Under-20 Elite Playing Squad this season.
Baxter revealed that fellow coaches Ali Hepher and Ricky Pellow had persuaded him to give Nowell, who is dual-registered with the Pirates this season, his big chance at this stage of his development.
“I don’t mind admitting it, Ali and Ricky are big fans of his, and we sat in the office and they said, ‘Come on, this is his time and it is right for him now’. I have got to say they were right.”
Nowell, who studied at Truro College, is more renowned as a full-back, but played on the wing, where he featured in the previous week’s LV= Cup game against Ospreys, to help give him a bit more protection.
“It was important for us to give him the best opportunity to perform well coming into the side,” explained Baxter.
“With the conditions we had on Sunday, playing at full-back was tough, whereas playing on the wing eased that little bit of pressure on him.
“He is equally good in either position, and, down the line, he is the kind of guy we hope will be with us for the next six, seven or eight years.”
The Chiefs’ second XV, Exeter Braves, enjoyed a big 49-7 win over Wasps in last night’s Aviva Premiership A League Southern Conference fixture at Henley.
Exeter got their first score of the evening after a minute, when Chris Budgen went over under the posts after a period of pressure. Henry Slade added the extras.
Justin Blanchet went over for Exeter’s second try of the night with seven minutes on the clock, and Slade added the conversion again.
The visitors’ third try soon followed, when Will Carrick-Smith went over in the left corner. Slade once again added the two points.
Andy Cannock’s try and Will Robinson’s conversion put Wasps on the scoresheet but Sam Simmonds added another Exeter try and Slade converted again.
Another Blanchet try and another Slade conversion gave the Braves a 35-7 half-time lead. They were forced to wait until the 60th minute for their next score, when Simmonds went over for his second try of the night. Slade added the extras before Carrick-Smith got his second try and Myles Dorrian converted, with Slade having left the field by then.