Burke pleased with gritty win
Leicester attack coach Paul Burke took the positives from his team's ability to continue grinding out results, despite having "not really got going this season", following Sunday afternoon's 21-9 victory over battling Exeter at Sandy Park.
The triumph lifted the Tigers, who won by just three points at this venue in March, into the top three in the Aviva Premiership, although there were worries for England boss Stuart Lancaster ahead of the Autumn Test Series with hooker Tom Youngs and lock Geoff Parling coming off injured.
Other England stars Ben Youngs, at scrum-half, and his half-back partner Toby Flood, had armchair rides as their pack hammered the home eight in the scrums. Number nine Youngs grabbed a first-half try, with centre Niki Guneva getting another moments before the break.
Flood added three penalties and a conversion against three second-half penalties from home stand-off Gareth Steenson.
But it was the outstanding Tigers pack, with England prop Dan Cole and lock Louis Deacon playing vital roles, that was the key to the Leicester win.
Burke, who is in charge on matchdays while director of rugby Richard Cockerill serves his nine-game ban for unprofessional behaviour at last season's Premiership Final, was pleased with his players' display - particularly in the firsthalf - and felt there were numerous positives to take ahead of next Saturday's clash with closest rivals Northampton at Welford Road.
Burke said: "It was an outstanding effort from our players because Exeter really came at us in the second half. They threw everything at us and not to concede a try today at Sandy Park was good.
"We felt that if we tied Exeter up at the start, got momentum and quietened the crowd down, we would get a foothold in the game. You play in the right areas, get field position, keep hold of the ball and recycle, you will get your rewards.
"I was disappointed that we allowed them to get back into the game in the second half.
"The scrum was a real force today and we got a lot of rewards out of it."
Leicester will head into next weekend's game against Northampton at Welford Road level on points with second-placed Saints - the pair four points behind leaders Saracens.
"We have some big games coming up with Saints next week and then two Europeans," Burke said.
"We haven't really got going this season but there are positive signs in that we are grinding out wins and not putting in real performances."
The two injuries to concern Lancaster should be "fine", according to Burke. "Geoff got a bang his hip but he will be ok. Tom was fine and just got a bang in his chest region."
Attention now turns to Northampton, who are riding high and have British and Irish Lions wing George North firing well.
"It is a completely different ball game next week with Saints," Burke said. "They are playing very well and are playing with a lot of momentum and flair. There is no bigger game for us and to be tied at second in the table adds an extra bit of spice to the game.
"We know Northampton's threats. We have watched them play in the last couple of weeks and George North is key to them."
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter, meanwhile, was wounded at his side's horror show in the first period.
Baxter said: "That is as disappointing with our showing in the first half that I can ever remember in the Premiership. I don't mind the wins and the losses as such. You deal with those as they are going to happen.
"But you have always got to fire some shots and give yourself a chance. I said to the guys at half-time that, if I was a supporter watching that, I would think we were afraid.
"When I say that, I don't mean afraid of the physical contest, I mean afraid to put ourselves out there and go for it.
"We showed in the second half how effective that can be, even against Leicester. The fact is we are sat here now disappointed not to have scored two or three tries with the pressure we had on their line.
"We have won the second half 9-6 and made it a real contest, but we have got what we deserved because of our first-half showing. You can't run away from that and I have told the guys that, at this stage, if it does not feel nice and exciting to be playing someone like Leicester, then we have got something wrong."