Rob Baxter doesn't look for excuses after Exeter Chiefs late draw
FOR the second game in a row, Exeter Chiefs went into the closing stages with a slender lead but were unable to come away with a victory to show for their efforts.
After Gloucester kicked their way to an 18-16 success the previous weekend, on Saturday Bath were awarded a late penalty try which Tom Heathcote converted to snatch a 12-12 draw from the jaws of defeat.
Head coach Rob Baxter was keen to accentuate the positives following their best result against Bath for 34 years.
He felt the draw showed yet again that his Chiefs side are competitive against any team in the Aviva Premiership.
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However, after controlling much of the play in the second half, Baxter knows his players have to make more of the chances on offer.
"It's got to be about what we do and not try to look for excuses," he said. "Ultimately that's how you become a successful side.
"We're clearly doing good things because we had a dominant amount of possession, we had a dominant amount of territory. What we've got to look at is how we score more points and how that area becomes more productive for us.
"That means you're not relying on one decision to go your way, one penalty to go over or someone to miss a kick.
"I'm not overly concerned with how games end up on the scoresheet if I don't see too many problems on the pitch and I don't see big problems either with the way we're playing or how individual players are playing."
As was the case in the defeat at Gloucester, Baxter was not happy with some of the decisions from the referee.
He felt David Rose was not harsh enough on Bath at times and also felt there was a lack of consistency in the way the scrums were refereed.
Had a few more decisions gone in Exeter's favour it could have made a difference to the result in such a close game.
"The area I'm the least happy with were occasions when we had good momentum and a little bit of leniency got given too much to the defending side," said Baxter.
"When Stephen Donald knocks the ball out of Jason Shoemark's hands, I think he's lucky for that not to be deemed at least a penalty. When we were attacking under the posts and the ball gets kicked out of a player's hands, again it's a nice call for the defence to have but on a lot of occasions that would have been deemed a penalty.
"They're 50/50 calls when the game's played at full speed. My opinion is the benefit of the doubt should go to the attacking side, on those occasions they didn't.
"Similarly at scrum time, we got on the front foot at a few scrums that were re-set and other scrums seemed to be relatively quickly penalised.
"They're not big issues over the context of a game. If the game's tight, you just need one or two individual decisions to go your way and you win the game, if they don't you don't win the game.
"We've had a couple of weeks like that where we just needed a couple of 50/50 calls to edge our way a little bit more."
Exeter went into the game having claimed more tries in the Premiership than any other side but were outscored by two scores to none against Bath.
After Gareth Steenson had opened the scoring with a penalty, Michael Claassens put Bath in front as he was on Stephen Donald's shoulder to finish off his break and hold off Gonzalo Camacho's tackle to dot down in the left corner.
Although the Chiefs were unable to assert much control in the first half, they created several chances but either mistakes cost them or they gave away a penalty at the crucial time.
However, they led 6-5 at the break as Steenson slotted a difficult penalty chance and he nailed his third kick early in the second half.
That took the fly-half past 1,000 points in an Exeter jersey and he soon added to the tally with his fourth penalty as the Chiefs took a grip on the match.
A series of penalties against the hosts got Bath back into it and, from one line-out five metres out, Rose awarded a penalty try for Exeter collapsing the drive. As it happens, Bath's pack had rumbled over on the far side anyway but Heathcote was given the simplest of kicks to draw the scores level.
Baxter's men pressed for a winning score but handling errors and yet another penalty denied them the victory the majority of the capacity crowd wanted.