Rob Baxter challenges Exeter to keep improving after Newcastle victory
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter has challenged his players to keep upping their game towards the heights of last season after a try bonus 32-19 victory against Newcastle at a freezing Kingston Park put the Chiefs into the top four of the Aviva Premiership for the first time this season.
A 77th-minute try by former Newcastle scrum-half Will Chudley secured the bonus point for Baxter's side, who moved up to fourth in the table after only their third league win of the season.
"I think physically and mentally our intensity levels are getting back to somewhere near where they need to be," said Baxter, who guided the Chiefs to the Premiership final last year. "But I still don't think they're up where they were last season.
"I've congratulated the players in the changing room but I've also said I'm going to challenge them next week to knock on.
"If we really want to be challenging at the top end of the Premiership, our intensity levels, our mental switch-on, our early movement and our communication - everything - has to keep progressing and progressing."
Exeter, whose other tries came from England centre Ollie Devoto, England No 8 Thomas Waldrom and wing James Short, are at home to Worcester next Saturday.
"We're getting there," Baxter added. "Getting five points here is a good marker for us. Newcastle have been a pretty tough nut to crack this season, especially at home.
"We've had to deal with a little bit of pressure and some tough results. The last two results in the front-line competitions - away at Ulster and at home to Bath - could break you if you let them, but we've shown some really good resilience.
"We've worked extremely hard and the guys have got their just rewards."
Newcastle were roared on by their biggest home crowd of the season - 8,061 - but, despite tries from Scotland hooker Scott Lawson and full-back Alex Tait, the Falcons were unable to salvage a losing bonus point.
"We're disappointed that we didn't turn in the performance we wanted to," said Newcastle's director of rugby Dean Richards. "I'm frustrated more than anything.
"When you give them a seven-point head start and concede too many dumb penalties, then you probably get what you deserve. We've got to look at ourselves more than them.
"They put 62 points on Cardiff last week. They're getting back into the swing of things."