Armand expects a response
By Alfie Martin
Don Armand is certain the Exeter Chiefs will bounce back after their disappointing home defeat to Wasps in Round 19 of the Gallagher Premiership.
The Devonians began the contest the stronger, bagging early tries through Jack Nowell and Nic White, but it was the visitors who hit back strongly, eventually sealing a 26-19 bonus point victory which edged them into fifth place in the current standings.
It marked a first home defeat in the league for 14 months for Rob Baxter, but stand-in captain Armand believes there will be a response from his side when they tackle Harlequins at Sandy Park in a week’s time.
“It’s always disappointing to lose, especially here at home,” said Armand. “But that was a really big test for us in terms of the way things are going and the direction we are heading. Things didn’t seem to go our way out there, but that’s the sort of thing that we can take from and use in our mental preparation for the games to come.”
The visitors opened their scoring at the hands of Willie Le Roux, who was followed over the whitewash swiftly by Juan De Jongh and Marcus Watson on the cusp of half time. Georgian prop Zurabi Zhvania made it four during the second half, before Chiefs replacement Jack Yeandle found his way over in the final quarter to set-up a tense final ten minutes.
“Wasps got their tries quite quickly and turned the tide,” explained Armand. “Once they got the momentum going they really took it to us. It’s very hard to battle against that momentum and they worked well at keeping it working in their favour.”
Despite the loss, which marks the Chiefs’ first league home defeat to the Midlanders, Armand insists that he and his team-mates are keen to make a statement as they head into the closing rounds of the regular season.
With a home semi-final already secured, the Zimbabwe-born back-rower says the Chiefs can’t afford to let their standards drop.
“The home semi-final is in the bag, but essentially we want to make sure we’re well prepped for the games ahead of us,” he continued. “Performance-wise, we don’t just want to be looking at the semi-final. That might be too late to make sure our performance is where it needs to be, so these next few games are vital for us.
“We’ll be looking to make sure that we iron out the mistakes, that we get those basic things done right, that we know where we need to be in certain situations and that we don’t let our performances drop. There are some tough games up ahead and they are by no means easy.”