DIRECTOR of rugby Alan Solomons hailed an “unbelievable performance” from his Worcester Warriors players despite losing 34-19 to Exeter Chiefs at Sixways.

Warriors fielded a largely inexperienced side for the Premiership Cup clash while Chiefs sent a team packed with first-team regulars.

But Worcester pushed Exeter all the way thanks to a hat-trick from Tom Howe and a tireless defensive display.

Howe’s third try put the hosts 19-10 in front at the start of the second period only for Exeter’s pressure to tell, scoring 24 unanswered points with two converted tries coming in the final two minutes.

The bonus-point victory also sees Chiefs overtake Warriors at the top of Pool C but Solomons gave his men nothing but praise after the match.

“I thought the commitment from the side was unbelievable,” Solomons said.

“Our analyst was saying that we made something like 140 tackles in the first half compared to their 40.

“I think they had 74 per cent territory and possession.

“That was pretty much the strongest available side that they could send out and then you look at the number of young players we had out there.

“We had Joe Morris, Beck Cutting and Kai Owen who almost played the whole game in the front row. We also had Cleggy (Justin Clegg), Kitch (Andrew Kitchener), Alex Hearle and then Nick David came on.

“I thought it was an unbelievable performance.

“Some of the defence close to our line throughout the game was incredible.

“I told the lads afterwards that I thought that was a really committed performance.”

Warriors failed to concede a point when Andrew Kitchener was yellow carded in the first half and even took the lead with Howe scoring his second on 28 minutes.

But Worcester’s second yellow of the evening proved costly. The home side were trailing 20-19 when Montgomery was sin-binned for offside and Exeter made the numerical advantage count.

“That made a massive difference because there was huge fatigue,” said Solomons on Montgomery’s yellow.

“They are a big side, so you are giving a lot in defence and tackling and to go down to 14 men there made it very difficult.

“We didn’t have much ball either which does make it difficult.

“Obviously we would have liked to have had better field position and more possession but that’s not the way it worked.

“Of course we were under pressure in the scrum but, by in large, we held together which is exactly what we did throughout that game.”

Exeter coach Ali Hepher felt his side were a “little bit rusty” but was also keen to praise Worcester’s efforts in defence.

“They defended incredibly well and were resilient,” Hepher added.

“We were a little bit disappointed to turn over so much ball and that tends to happen in a first hit-out with a lot of guys coming back from a week away.

“We were a little bit head-ups, looking at the defence in front of us rather than focusing on the ball.

“In the second half we tightened up, started to play and did a few show-and-goes that gave us momentum to wrestle the game back.”