Baxter's reaction to Irish win
By Mark Stevens
Rob Baxter was all smiles as he watched his Exeter Chiefs side return to winning ways with a five-try victory over visiting London Irish at Sandy Park.
The defending Aviva Premiership champions quickly banished the disappointment of their opening week loss at Gloucester by dominating this latest encounter against the newly-promoted Exiles, who themselves had kicked off the new season with success over Harlequins in the London Double Header.
In Devon, however, they were no match for the Chiefs, who by half-time were already 20-0 up thanks to tries from Henry Slade and Don Armand, as well as a penalty try. Gareth Steenson followed up a first penalty with another early in the second period, before Irish finally found something to cheer about when Alex Lexington stole over for a converted score in the right corner.
With just over five minutes remaining, though, Baxter’s side not only put the seal on their success, but they also wrapped up the all-important bonus points thanks to late touchdowns from Olly Woodburn and Armand again.
Post-match, a pleased Chiefs’ Director of Rugby said: “Obviously I’m delighted with the five points, which is all you can get out of the game, but I’m probably more pleased with the overall control we had.
“We had control for large periods of the game and although the second half took a little bit of getting through, mainly because London Irish got some territory, and partly through some mistakes by us, ultimately we finished strongly and scored those tries at that end. To get a five-point win is very satisfying, as is the fact that we only conceded seven points.”
Floored in the final minute away to Gloucester the previous week, the Chiefs were quickly out of the traps in this latest outing. Irish struggled to cope with the home side’s attacking power plays, all of which appear to be in fine fettle following a quick tune-up this week in training.
Baxter added: “I’ve just said to the lads, we are going through the gears and that’s the important thing. In this division you can’t afford to stutter, you have to keep your foot down on the pedal. I thought we were pretty good at Gloucester last week, but today we better again and a lot more composed. Now we need to be better again when we go to Worcester on Friday.
“Week by week is the battle and that’s what you have to cherish. What pleased me was seeing the guys going out enjoying themselves, expressing themselves, and really taking part in the game. That is what I want to see. I want to see them enjoying themselves game by game. Where we end up is where we end up and you can deal with that.
“You shouldn’t play a season going I hope we get to a final again and then forget to enjoy the season. The important thing for a rugby player is to play well today, enjoy the challenge, enjoy having a few beers after, and then starting all over again on Monday. As I said, we mustn’t forget its a week by week process and enjoy every step of the way.”
Having scored three tries in the first half, it took until late on for the bonus point to be secure and - for a period - Baxter was unsure if it would come, particularly after Lewington had struck for the visitors. In the end, the Chiefs boss need not have worried as his side finished with a flourish, scoring not just one try, but two in the end.
“I thought our response after they scored was fantastic. For that last seven or eight minutes it was all about us going after the try. In the end, we got two of them! It showed not only the patience of our players, but also how hard they were prepared to work for the full 80 minutes.
“Six points after two games is a pretty good return, but now we have to get settled in again - and that means we need to make sure we are massively energetic when we come in on Monday and take that right through next week into the Worcester game.”