Baxter: “I knew there’d be days like this”


Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby Rob Baxter admitted he always knew there would be tough days this season as he tries to rebuild his squad. 

The Chiefs were well beaten by Sale Sharks, losing 41-5 at the Salford Community Stadium, which was their heaviest defeat of the campaign to date.

Not many people would have predicted the Chiefs to be in contention for the play-offs at the start of the season and Baxter admitted defeats like they suffered against Sale were always going to happen with such a young team.

“I’m trying to be very pragmatic about it,” he said.

“I have to say I kind of always knew there’d be days like this when we started to put the team together.

“That there’d be days when we got things a bit wrong and things could go against us pretty quickly, especially when a team are on it and they’re really desperate and fighting for something.

“But it’s a little frustrating because I probably thought we’d probably accelerated through, not quite getting caught out like we were today.”

The Chiefs made costly errors in their defeat to the Sharks and Baxter admitted his frustration at his team’s performance.

He said: “We just weren’t tough on a few things.

“We had some sloppy lifts and someone knocks on.

“Then there was an early engage at scrum.

“We just weren’t tough enough on the detail of how we had to play and how we had to keep that ball on the field and a game of multi-phase rugby between the two teams would have happened.

“That would have suited us way more.”

“With about 15 minutes to go, I think we probably should score in the corner, but we don’t give the scoring pass there.

“Two tries at that stage I think we would have had a fighting chance of pushing for a bonus point try, and I think that’s the very least we needed after the first half.

“But even then we couldn’t quite manipulate things.
“Even when we did get offloads going and we did get tempo in the end, we couldn’t quite stick it together to force those next couple of tries.”

With such a young squad at Exeter, Baxter is keen for his players to use this experience and benefit from it ahead of the last four league games.

He said: “For me, today doesn’t cause any damage if we learn from it.

“I’ve just reminded the lads of something we said on day one of pre-season, which was basically the biggest thing for me is that at the end of the day, you’re a better player than you were at the start of the day.

“By the end of the week, you’re a better player than you were at the start of the week.

“By the end of the first game we play, we’re a better team, you’re a better player, and I’ve just said that to them.

“That doesn’t just happen with winning, that also happens with losing.

“There’s some lessons that we’ve got to learn collectively and individually today and I think if we learn them, then days, like today, can be one you look back on and go that was an important day for us.”

Exeter now sit in 6th place after the defeat, two points off Harlequins in fourth place and Baxter admitted it is now a tough task ahead of them as they look to creep into the play-off places.

“If we want to be featured in the top four, it looks likely now we’re going to have to go to Gloucester and win,” he said.

“We’re going to have to go to Leicester and win.

“We’ve got to learn some lessons from today about how we can turn up.”

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