'Chiefs will be better next week' - Baxter
By Mark Stevens
Rob Baxter insists his Exeter Chiefs side will be better for next week’s visit of Leinster in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup.
The defending champions overcame a slow start at Sandy Park to finish comfortable 47-25 victors against visiting Lyon.
In a powerful opening from the Frenchmen, they stormed into a 14-0 lead inside the opening ten minutes as Baptiste Couilloud and Xavier Mignot gave them the perfect start.
And they would lead two more times before the break as the Chiefs finally clicked into gear.
Jonny Hill’s first half brace, together with scores for Tom O’Flaherty, Dave Ewers, Olly Woodburn and a penalty try, ensured Baxter’s side advanced into the last eight.
“I think we will have to be better next week and we will be,” said a defiant Baxter after the game. “I think the game time to get that team aligning was really important.
“They needed to knock themselves back into being club players, to get into Exeter Chiefs systems, and they have done that today.”
Having opted to rest all but Woodburn for the previous week’s Gallagher Premiership loss at Gloucester, it was a welcome sight for Baxter to see not only his international contingent return from Six Nations duty, but also his other key names.
The Chiefs Director of Rugby admitted it took time for all of them to gel into place, but by the end his players were demonstrating the key elements he want to see his side’s play.
“We had one of those funny starts and it proved that we needed a game,” added Baxter. “The fact is these guys have been away a long time now. That’s only the second or third game that Henry Slade or Jonny Hill have featured for us because of their unavailability for internationals.
“And you have the Scotland lads [Stuart Hogg, Sam Skinner and Jonny Gray] and Tom Francis going back and forth. Couple that with the injuries we’ve had and you have a much-changed team.
“We just needed that time to align and I’m really pleased that’s happened now. We needed a game to give us a chance at being better next weekend. We started the process of improvement. After this I’d expect us to be at least 10 per cent better.”
Baxter was pleased with the way his double winners never looked flustered as they brushed aside an error-ridden start.
“Oddly, some our five-metre stuff was as efficient as I’ve ever seen it. Even when we lost line-outs we were able to turn them into five-metre scrums. We were fantastic in that area,” Baxter said.
“Our ability to withstand the scoreboard pressure that our start could have led to was fantastic.
“A lot of teams would have had an issue mentally after going down by that many points early on, but we looked like it energised us and we got on with things even more.”
Baxter also played down any real concern over the Simmonds brothers, both of whom limped out of the action in the second half.
“I’ve just spoken to them both down in the changing rooms and they said it’s just cramp,” added the Chiefs leader. “There were a lot of points scored out there today and there were a lot of metres run as well.”