Baxter proud of Exeter efforts
Rob Baxter said that he could not have asked for more from his Exeter Chiefs side as they beat Sale Sharks 44-16 but still missed out on the Aviva Premiership play-offs.
The comprehensive victory, played out in front of a record Sandy Park crowd of 12,642, saw the Chiefs run in seven tries from Ian Whitten, Jack Nowell, Ben White, Matt Jess (twice), Henry Slade and Byron McGuigan.
But it was not enough and instead it will be Saracens - big winners against London Welsh - who go into next Saturday's semi-final at leaders Northampton, leaving Exeter to compete in next season's European Champions Cup.
"All week we spoke about putting ourselves in a bubble and making sure that we were focused on this game and not get the distractions of other performances so I don't think we could have done much more," said head coach Baxter.
"We weren't at our best in the first half but we weren't going to be in this kind of game with the scenarios as they were. To be fair to Sale, they had a lot to play for as well but I thought we handled most of that very well.
"From where I was sat, with 20 minutes to go, it was pretty exciting and we were just about ahead. But things got away from us elsewhere but this was a great game of rugby and a great day for Premiership rugby in a lot of ways.
"For me it has been a great season having taken some great steps forward in our consistency and the big foundation for that has been our home form - losing two Premiership games, one to Leicester by four points and a to Gloucester by a point.
"Away from home there was only one game where we didn't take a losing bonus point. We were good through the European Challenge Cup reaching the semis and getting to the final of the LV=Cup again."
England will announce a 50 strong preliminary squad on Wednesday for the Rugby World Cup and Baxter is expecting that back row Dave Ewers and hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie to be included.
"I know that Stuart (Lancaster) is very impressed by their recent performances and, for me, the one negative of not pushing through to the top four was that it would have given us another opportunity to showcase a lot of our players."
Defeat for Sale means they will play in Europe's second-tier competition.
Sale finished with Mark Cueto, in his final game before retiring, in the sin-bin and Ross Harrison have been sent off. Their points came through a try in each half from Josh Beaumont, while Danny Cipriani kicked two first half penalties.
Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond was far from happy after the heavy defeat which meant that they finished seventh and failed to qualify for next season's European Champions Cup.
Diamond failed to attend the post-match press conference but issued the following statement: "It was a great performance by Exeter Chiefs and they wanted it more in the second half. We just couldn't stay in it in that period and ill-discipline cost us with the two yellows and a red."