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Chiefs dig deep for home triumph

Exeter Chiefs are learning fast how to cope with the pressure of a first ever season in English rugby's top flight.

The Chiefs followed up on their opening day win over Gloucester by edging out Newcastle Falcons 22-17 at Sandy Park and assistant coach Ali Hepher is backing them to deal with their steep learning curve in the Premiership.

"It was important that we battled through it," he said. "It wasn't the slickest of performances but you can see the character of the team coming through at the end."

He added: "We have been emphasising to the guys all week the mental side of the game. We knew, game wise, we had enough to win the game but it would come down to the attitude of the team. I think that we just pulled through it but the guys have just got to get used to that pressure week in, week out.

"They are great guys, they work so hard, probably the hardest working group of players that I have seen. These guys are going in the right direction and we will learn masses from this game and take it through to next week."

Fly-half Gareth Steenson weighed in with 17 points - five penalties and a conversion for flanker Tom Johnson's first-half try - and Hepher hailed his contribution.

"He's the best kicker I've seen under the cosh. He missed the posts with one but we'll work on that. He puts in so much hard work but it's important that the team perform around him. The team creates pressure, creating penalties and it's his job to knock them over."

Newcastle Falcons head coach Alan Tait felt that his side were penalised out of the game.

He said: "It was just little things that changed the game like the penalty count, especially in the second half. It was eight penalties to one after the break and most of them were for not rolling away. It has happened in both our away game so we'll need to look at ourselves and ask the referee for a bit of advice and see what they say.

"But it is probably the performance that was the most upsetting. We scored two tries but we can play better than that. Exeter ran a lot straighter and harder."

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