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Exeter coach Rob Baxter hails Chiefs' endeavour

Published 01/05/2016

Rob Baxter was delighted to see his team perform under pressure
Rob Baxter was delighted to see his team perform under pressure

Exeter boss Rob Baxter hailed an outstanding performance by the Chiefs after they put themselves back in pole position for a home Aviva Premiership play-off.

Exeter climbed above Wasps in the scramble for a Premiership home play-off after they swept aside their European Champions Cup conquerors 24-3 at Sandy Park.

"From my perspective, it was important that we kept things in our hands," Baxter said.

"What I am really pleased with is that we put a bit of pressure on the lads this week, saying these are the type of games we have to turn up and perform in at this stage of the year if we genuinely want to look at ourselves as contenders.

"Right from the start, our work-rate, our endeavour and discipline was fantastic. The scoreboard probably doesn't reflect the actual possession and territory dominance that we actually had.

"We looked like the team that was at home, fully fresh, firing and ready to win a big game at home, and I thought Wasps looked like a team who had just come through a couple of really tough couple of weeks, and it was a tough ask to come down here and win another big game.

"I saw us do it at Gloucester a couple of weeks ago, when we were off enough for us to lose the game.

"When I looked at the two teams come in at half-time, I thought we looked like the team that was going to go and win it."

Tries from Olly Woodburn, his fellow wing Jack Nowell and full-back Phil Dollman underpinned Exeter's emphatic victory.

Fly-half Gareth Steenson added all three conversions and kicked a penalty, with Chiefs guaranteed a Sandy Park semi-final later this month if they beat Harlequins next weekend, with their play-off opponents likely to be Wasps - home or away.

Baxter added: "Wasps have got threats everywhere. They are one of these horrible teams to play against because you can play really well, and all of a sudden tries start coming in out of nowhere. Things can just happen.

"But we held our shape really well. We had energy and physicality in the contact. We looked like a fresh, revitalised team and like we were enjoying our rugby."

Baxter also hailed an immense display from blindside flanker Dave Ewers, who looks back to his best after an injury-disrupted season - and possibly on course for England's three-Test Australia tour next month.

"Dave is back to bang on form," Baxter said. "He was rampant today.

"His physicality was outstanding, and it was a reminder from him to Eddie Jones. I know he was playing bang-on at the start of the season, and it looks like he is bang-on again now. He has hit some form at a great time for us."

Wasps, who pipped Exeter in a pulsating Champions Cup quarter-final clash three weeks ago, looked a shadow of the team victorious on that occasion, and a long-range Elliot Daly penalty proved their only points from a fruitless trip to Devon.

Any slip-up by Exeter against Quins, though, and Wasps could swap positions with them, provided they see off the Premiership's bottom club London Irish when the regular league season concludes in six days' time.

"We know that physically and mentally the last couple of weeks have been pretty draining, but we were determined as a group that we weren't going to use that as an excuse," Wasps rugby director Dai Young said.

"We want to be up there at the business end of the season with things to play for.

"Probably the challenge for us moving forward is that we haven't quite had the answers with the ball. I don't want to be defending for that length of time. We have to find a few answers with the ball in hand.

"We are not getting gain-line efficiency, we are not really getting quick ball, which is forcing us into a lot of errors. We only got inside their 22 once in the whole game.

"I am not going to doubt the effort and commitment. If that hadn't been there, I think we could have had our trousers pulled down, to be quite honest.

"It is a real disappointed dressing room, but the big thing for us is to get our game going. We have got to change it up a little bit with the ball in hand."

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