Exeter’s recent run of three victories in a row came to an inglorious end with a 12-9 defeat to Bath in last week’s game at Sandy Park. It took a last minute penalty from Tom Heathcote to secure victory for Bath but it was the performance that was most worrying for Exeter’s head coach, Rob Baxter.
Exeter have impressed in their second season in the Premiership and seem to be building upon the successes of last season. Their recent three game winning run has seen them beat Newcastle, Leicester and Wasps since they missed out narrowly at home to league leaders, Harlequins, a game many would say the Chiefs could easily have won. This impressive run has seen some impressive performances along the way but this recent form seemingly abandoned Exeter in their defeat to Bath.
Baxter highlights that Exeter “made too many mistakes”, “coughed up too much soft ball” and “gave away too many soft penalties”. Exeter gave away three penalties in quick succession to see themselves fall from a winning position to a 12-9 defeat. These are the sort of things that have been absent for much of the season so far for Exeter and they find themselves sat comfortable in 6th place in the table and in with a realistic chance of making the playoffs.
The result is not the worrying thing for Exeter. Baxter concedes that “sometimes you lose games and you play well”, he goes on to say that he could accept those defeats. But he is equally clear that this was not a case of a good performance not paying off, Exeter got what they deserved against Bath and they will need to improve on that to push up the table.
Next up for Exeter is a visit from Sale who sit level on points with the Chiefs and with an identical record. Both sides have aspirations to climb up towards a play off place, and at the very least a Heineken Cup place. Exeter will be hoping to cut out the mistakes, if they do they should win, if not Sale are in the sort of form where they will punish anything loose.