Chiefs squad depth key to Anglo-Welsh success - Pellow
Exeter assistant coach Ricky Pellow hailed the increased strength of the Chiefs' squad after they secured a home Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final with a convincing 35-7 win over Bristol.
The bonus-point win at Ashton Gate was enough to hold off a strong challenge from Ospreys to top Pool 2 and earn a semi-final with Harlequins at Sandy Park on the weekend of March 10-12.
Pellow said: "The strength in depth of our squad is now coming through as last season in this competition we had to field a very young side.
"Some of our leading players have been able to gain valuable playing time in this competition and this has interacted well with our promising youngsters.
"We are likely to stick with this group of players for the semi-final but it will be dependent on where we are in the Premiership."
Exeter were made to work hard for their victory and their performance was a somewhat disjointed one but they still managed five tries.
Shaun Malton, Max Bodilly and Henry Slade scored one apiece and there were two penalty try awards, with Joe Simmonds adding five conversions.
Pellow accepted it had been a tough game and added: "We had to fight for everything and we couldn't get a stranglehold on the game.
"It was a forward-orientated battle, with Bristol defending very well as their big pack was able to slow the game down and frustrate us."
Bristol played with great spirit throughout and were on the receiving end of most of the referee's decisions, including yellow cards for hooker Marc Jones and flanker James Phillips.
Their sole response was a try from Jamal Ford-Robinson, converted by Callum Sheedy, but ultimately the final scoreline did them no favours.
Their academy coach Mark Irish said: "I thought the referee was harsh on us but the boys showed good character and the scoreline didn't reflect that.
"Our forwards fronted up really well as Exeter had a lot of experience out there. We survived the double sin-binning period but Slade's interception try was the crucial blow as it took the buzz away from us.
"Exeter punished us for our mistakes but for a group that has never played together before, I thought we showed good cohesion."