'Clinical' Exeter leave boss Baxter delighted
ROB Baxter thinks Saturday's much-needed win against London Welsh was the most clinical Exeter Chiefs have been.
The 47-16 success ended a run of five games without a win in the Aviva Premiership.
And the Sandy Park outfit got back to winning ways in style against the side battling against the drop to score five tries in their highest score in the Premiership.
That went some way to making up for their 21-16 loss at Sale a fortnight earlier, when they threw away a string of chances.
Head coach Baxter said: "I think stats-wise it's the most clinical we've been in the opposition defensive third, which is pleasing because it's something we've been talking about for quite a while.
"There's no running away from the fact that against Sale we bombed chances and that's what cost us the game.
"We had a bit better attitude about ourselves (against London Welsh) about how we carried the ball as individuals and how we hunted as a group defensively. That added a little bit to our game as well.
"Overall it was a good performance against a dogged side. Once we dealt with their strengths – their scrum and driving maul – we were able to show our own strengths and as soon as we were able to control the breakdown and get phases together we looked a good side."
The opening 30 minutes of Saturday's contest were very close, with neither side able to get away from the other on the scoreboard in quite an open game.
With Exeter leading 12-9, they finally broke free when hooker Jack Yeandle – on his first Premiership start – crossed from close range.
Baxter was happy with the decisions his players made during the opening exchanges before they were able to relax and exploit Welsh's weaknesses later on in the match.
"I think the more we analyse it the happier we are about the performance," he said.
"Although we were a bit edgy in the first half and we didn't quite grab control of the game, we made pretty good decisions. We took our shots at goal, built a score and it shows that you can build a big score steadily – you don't have to be running in tries from the first minute of the game to score nearly 50 points.
"When we went for the corner in the first half we did it after evidence that our driving game was reaping rewards.
"As the game wore on we became stronger, we looked fit and we looked fresh and full of running at the end of the game. That's testament to where we think we are and the way we think we've been playing without seeing things off.
"It showed that most of what we've been doing has been pretty sound, we just had to pin it all together for longer periods. That's what we did."
Fly-half Gareth Steenson kicked four penalties before he converted Yeandle's first try for the Chiefs and didn't miss a kick all match. That saw him score 22 points and move past 200 for the season.
Opposite number Gavin Henson was also faultless in front of the sticks as he kicked three penalties early on and also converted Phil MacKenzie's try in the second half.
After leading 19-9 at the break, skipper Tom Hayes crossed for his first try of the season in the left corner, with Steenson's conversion making it 26-9 before the visitors' converted score.
Injuries started to hit the Chiefs in the second half, with Hoani Tui lasting less than a minute after the interval, Dean Mumm going off four minutes later and Jason Shoemark limping out of the action on the hour-mark.
Damian Welch replaced Mumm and within five minutes he had opened his account for Exeter as he flopped over in the right corner.
And it was not just the Chiefs who were forced to make changes, as referee Andrew Small went off injured to be replaced by Darren Gamage during the second half.
He was soon awarding a try to Sireli Naqelevuki as the powerful Fijian centre brought up the bonus point for the hosts.
That was also his fourth try of season, bringing him level with Matt Jess at the top of the club's try-scoring charts.
Jack Nowell soon joined them on that tally as he claimed his first league try for Exeter by twisting through a couple of attempted tackles to dot down under the sticks.
It was a great way for the Sandy Park outfit to end their run of just one win in nine games in all competitions, and Baxter was delighted for his players
"With the way the results have gone against us recently, that added a little bit of pressure but the guys dealt with it," said Baxter.
"You've got to be really pleased for the players when things come off. They've been the guys under a bit of pressure and they've come through an important game with flying colours.
"Now it opens up the rest of the season and makes the rest of the season exciting for us."