Baxter praises second half show
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, was full of praise for his side after they secured maximum reward from Friday’s Gallagher Premiership trip to rival play-off contenders Sale Sharks.
The league leaders overcame a 14-10 deficit at the break to run out 32-22 victors come the final whistle. Tries from Sam Simmonds, Jacques Vermeulen, Stuart Hogg and Luke Cowan-Dickie were the highlights, while skipper Joe Simmonds weighed in with the remaining points.
The Sharks countered with tries of their own from Tom Curry, Robert du Preez and Denny Solomona, but it was never going to be enough to thwart the Chiefs, who have now pocketed a perfect ten points since rugby restarted earlier this month.
Naturally, Baxter was delighted with not only the five points accrued in Salford, but also the way in which his players performed on the night.
“Obviously, I’m delighted with the result,” he said afterwards. ““The points are fantastic but the bigger thing for me was just how we grew in the game because we were challenged out there today.
“Sale, we know, were going to be a team who would look to challenge us around the breakdown, but we found a way to come through those challenges. There was a period in the first half where we were perhaps afraid to play and we became a bit passive, a bit static, even a bit time at times about how we were going to keep the ball.
“Sale took advantage of that and they scored two tries, but then we rolled our sleeves up and we managed to cut the scoreline to four points at half-time. For us, we thought that was a pretty positive to be in, especially given the conditions. It was a strong wind out there which people wouldn’t have realised on the TV.
“Coming back like that, however, gave us a bit of a foothold from which to drive and as you saw in the second half, the team really started to grow. They realised they had all the weapons in their armoury to control the breakdown and they started to use them.”
Friday’s win ensured the Chiefs maintained their eight-point lead at the top of the table over Bristol Bears, who provide the next opposition for Baxter’s side on Tuesday evening at Ashton Gate (7:45pm).
With games coming thick and fast, squads across the division will have to be rotated and Baxter wasted little time in reminding some of his players that their attentions would need to switch quickly to the threat of the Bears.
“As much as I like saying good things and how fantastic the players are playing, I’ve told them all we have to move on quickly,” added Baxter. “There are travelling reserves up here tonight, who need to get ready and prepare to train over these next few days for the Bristol game.
“We’ve also got guys on the bench who need to get refreshed, get recovered and ready to go again because some of them haven’t played a great deal of game minutes yet. I know there is a number of them who are raring to go and they’ll get their chance.
“What has been good about this restart, however, is the way every player has bought in to what we want to achieve. We’ve had the team that have played these first two games and they’ve kind of dragged the rest of the group along with them. That energy they’ve Brough has helped prepare not only themselves, but others as well, and we look like a well-prepared, energetic squad ready to hit Bristol on Tuesday.”