Rob Baxter hails fly-half Steenson for his match-winning contribution against Harlequins
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter hailed the performance of fly-half Gareth Steenson after Saturday's stunning 27-16 victory over Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins.
It saw the Chiefs complete an unlikely league double over the leaders, and capture their first win at The Stoop on another fabulous day for the Devon club.
Steenson produced his now almost predictable superb kicking display with a 17-point haul to take him to 164 Premiership points for the season, but he added to that with a couple of dazzling line breaks and some impressive game management.
"People criticise him and say he is a kicker and nothing else, but he was far from that today," said Baxter.
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"I am a massive believer that guys get better with Premiership exposure, and Steeno has had a good run of games now, and that is what fly-halves need.
"He is coming through it, he is kicking well, and he is looking more and more comfortable and content out there all the time, and that happens for a reason.
"He is working very hard, he is a professional guy and it means a lot to him, and he is playing very well for us.
"I think he thoroughly deserves the accolades he will get from the match, because, as the game broke up, not only did he make those breaks and provide a cutting edge for us, but he also tactically kicked very well.
"I think only once did he tactically get it wrong when, in the first half, he knocked a little chip up, but he knew straight away he had got it wrong, and he used that to improve himself over the rest of the game, and that shows someone who is getting it right."
However, Baxter was quick to heap plenty of praise on the rest of the team after an excellent all-round display.
"Apart from Gareth's performance, the big key for me was that we showed a really good intensity and physicality from one to 15," he said.
"That's an area we have sometimes been disappointed with. We always feel we are quite a good attacking side and quite well structured and we create opportunities, and sometimes we haven't always had an edge about us, but today we had it all.
"We hunted them in defence, we worked very hard in getting ourselves set and getting off the line and getting after tackles, and we didn't give up momentum easily.
"We controlled quite a lot of the momentum in the game, and ultimately we have come out on top because of that."
Baxter has presided over some wonderful Exeter wins during his time at the helm, but, while admitting Saturday's victory was right up there with the best of them, he explained that this one had a different feel to it.
Instead of helping the Chiefs secure their Premiership safety, this triumph gave renewed impetus to their hopes of a top-six finish in the table and a place in next season's Heineken Cup.
"Some of our previous big victories, like Gloucester at home in our first ever Premiership game, and Saracens away, have in some ways been great results for us because of how desperately we want to be in the Premiership and how much we want to fight to be there," he commented.
"This was slightly different. We weren't in danger of relegation before the game, but we did have an opportunity to push into a group fighting for a place in the top half of the table, and that's what we wanted to be part of.
"Our motivation was that, and the fact we played so well and showed such determination, because we wanted to achieve something, was a big statement of intent from us.
"That is the kind of club we want to be, one that is desperate to win and can come to places like Harlequins and put in a big performance because we want to be a top half of the table side, not because we are afraid of being relegated."
Exeter now take a fortnight's break before resuming their Premiership campaign with an eagerly awaited home game against third-placed Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park on Saturday, March 23, when the Midlanders should have all their internationals back.