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Rob Baxter expecting angry Exeter comeback at Ulster

Exeter boss Rob Baxter is expecting his players to show some anger this week after their European Champions Cup campaign began in miserable fashion against French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne.

Clermont, the 2015 European runners-up and current Top 14 leaders, made an immediate statement of intent as they claimed a five-try, 35-8 pool victory at Sandy Park.

Exeter, who beat Clermont comfortably on home soil last season before being crushed in the return fixture, were blown away by first-half tries from flanker Julien Bardy, wing Noa Nakaitaci and centre Wesley Fofana during a devastating 15-minute spell.

And Exeter had no answer as former Bath full-back Nick Abendanon claimed a bonus-point touchdown just three minutes into the second period, before Fofana added another try, while scrum-half Morgan Parra kicked four conversions and substitute Pato Fernandez one.

Gareth Steenson kicked an early penalty for Exeter, and Sam Hill added a late try, but Clermont were in no mood to take their foot off the accelerator.

"In all the time we've been in Europe, we have always known it's been a big challenge, but we've always said as long as we put our best foot forward we will deal with it and take the highs and the lows," Chiefs head coach Baxter said.

"Today feels a bit of a low to me, really, because I don't think that was a level of performance that is anything like we can achieve or have achieved in the past.

"I am not saying the boys are not working hard, but there were a lot of errors in there, and our Achilles' heel this season of conceding some soft points out of very innocuous situations reared its head again tonight."

Exeter face a testing Pool Five clash against Ulster in Belfast next Saturday, and Baxter added: "I've said to the lads that the response I am expecting is a little bit of anger.

"We've lost plenty of games - and against far worse teams than Clermont - in the time I've been coaching the club, but I am expecting us to be a bit angry with some of the things that went out there tonight.

"If that's our response, I will be pleased. What I don't want our response to be is the guys just come into training and get on with things and sooner or later our season will ignite.

"When you wait for something to happen, it never happens. You have got to make it happen in sport.

"In some ways, it's potentially a good result for us because you clear the decks with a result like that and you almost start again and go right back to your basics.

"We've lost a home game in Europe now, which we didn't do last season, so it is going to be tough, but we can look forward to some of the challenges ahead.

"Clermont were very clinical, and they looked like a team that wasn't going to come here and take second-best. They weren't going to let themselves get in a poor position in the pool.

"We were bullied a bit at the breakdown at times, and some of our unforced errors really did start to mount up."

Baxter, meanwhile, said that England elite player squad hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, who went off in the first-half, had suffered a twisted ankle, but would undergo further checks.


From Belfast Telegraph