Chiefs need to reset - Baxter
By Mark Stevens
Rob Baxter says he will be challenging his Exeter Chiefs side to ‘reset themselves’ after they suffered a second successive defeat in the Gallagher Premiership.
Last season’s double winners surrendered top spot in the top flight after they went down 20-7 to Westcountry rivals Bristol Bears at Sandy Park.
It meant more league woe for Baxter’s side, who seven days earlier had been picked off 34-5 by Wasps in their first defeat of the season.
Having trailed to a converted Harry Randall score, the Chiefs restored parity just before the break when England international Jonny Hill found his way over from close range.
The second half, however, belonged to the Bears, who wrapped up their win thanks to a Semi Radradra try and eight points from the boot of fly-half Callum Sheedy.
Post-game, a disappointed Baxter gave his reaction to his side’s latest setback. He said: “Bristol are a very good side and, I’m always very honest about things, I don’t think we deserved to win today.
“When we look back at the game, there were a couple of things that were moments in the game which, if they had gone our way, may well have turned momentum in our favour. That said, fair play to Bristol, they’ve come here and they’ve done a job on us.
“I think is has probably exposed that little bit in us, where we probably are in an emotional wobble. I am not going to say anything different to people here than what I did in the changing rooms. I am not quite sure every game is meaning as much at the moment as it should for the lads. I understand why it can happen,
"We had a big end of the (last) season and you think there might be a flat spot coming at some stage. It feels like we've hit one now," Baxter told BBC Radio Devon.
"But there's only one way to get through it - you get honest about it and you get some hard work done.We will look at the mistakes we made - there were plenty out there - and there is plenty that people can improve, both individually and collectively, so it’s going to be a nice interesting challenge for us over these next few weeks.”
With uncertainty over whether or not European fixtures will take place over the next two weeks due to the Covid pandemic around the world, Baxter says it will be a waiting game to see if the Chiefs tackle French giants Toulouse at home next Saturday.
“At the moment, nothing has been decided over Europe,” he added. “At the moment, all we can prepare for is to come back in on Monday and look to prepare as best we can.”
Part of Monday’s process will be to debrief this latest loss, where Baxter says he will be questioning the collective drive of his players following recent displays.
"If I'm going to question the lads, and I don't often do it, I'm not quite sure at the moment that they're prepared to throw absolutely everything into a game," he added. "I'm not saying that completely across the board, because there's always players who are going flat out, but I think that collective, absolute flat-out drive and will is just a little bit off at the moment.
"The good thing is that can come back very quickly if you deal with it and you're honest and open about it. There are reasons for this, players coming and going, the Covid issues, but that is something we need to address come Monday.
“Today, Bristol they were just that bit more composed and made things count in our 22 a little more than we did, so the reality is that we’ve probably got to look at ourselves and have a little bit of a reset moment.”