Exeter Chiefs coach Baxter keen to put Bath hoodoo to bed at Sandy Park
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter is hoping his side show no hangover from their narrow 18-16 defeat at Gloucester last weekend when they entertain Bath on Saturday (3pm).
A sell-out crowd will pack into Sandy Park for the eagerly-awaited Westcountry derby, when the Chiefs will be keen to lay their Bath bogey to rest.
Since arriving in the Premiership in 2010, Exeter have not beaten Bath in any competition – five league defeats and one LV= Cup loss – and they remain the only club in the top flight whose colours the Chiefs are yet to lower.
That is a frustrating statistic for Exeter fans, and there would be no better way to see out the old year than putting that right.
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The Chiefs are in good form and only saw their seven-match winning streak end at Gloucester with a penalty six minutes from time by England fly-half Freddie Burns.
Bath, meanwhile, were suffering a shock 22-0 home defeat to Saracens in the Recreation Ground mud.
"We went to Kingsholm on Saturday and lost by two points, but it is a game that, for many moments, could have gone either way," said Baxter.
"Gloucester will be pleased they have come through it, we were a little bit disappointed we didn't win, but's that what the Premiership is all about.
"You have got to make sure that no single game defines what you are as a club, or what the season is for you, and we have got to make sure we deal with it properly and efficiently, know where we can move on and get better, select the right side to play Bath, and make sure we perform well in that game."
The Premiership table makes fascinating reading at present, with Exeter lying in sixth place but only four points outside the top four Premiership semi-final positions.
Victories over Bath on Saturday, and at home to fifth-spot Northampton Saints the following weekend, would almost certainly lift the Chiefs into that top four, but two defeats and their end-of-season play-off hopes would suffer a major blow.
A triumph over Bath, who are two places behind the Chiefs, would also give Exeter a seven-to-nine-point gap over the Somerset outfit, just past the midway point in the league season.
"You can't really win anything at this stage of the season, but you can make it difficult for yourselves to get where you want to be," explained Baxter.
"A point at Gloucester was valuable to us, another three or more would have massively helped, but that won't define our season if we keep performing well.
"What will define our season is the quality we keep producing."
Exeter went down 23-15 at Bath at the end of October, but that came at the conclusion of a very tough run of Premiership and Heineken Cup fixtures, where the Chiefs played some of the best teams in Europe, and that no doubt had some sort of impact on their performance, though that was certainly not used by the Chiefs as an excuse for defeat that day.
Bath head coach Gary Gold is seeking a massive improvement from his side after their dismal home showing against Saracens. "The question is where didn't we fall short against Saracens?" he said. "Saracens were as good in every aspect of the game as we were poor.
"Our line-out didn't function, our kicking game didn't function, and we made a couple of lapses in defence, an area of our game which we normally pride ourselves on."
Bath will be able to welcome back on Saturday former England centre Matt Banahan, who has served a three-week ban after being sent off for a dangerous tackle against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on December 1.
Exeter, meanwhile, will be hoping versatile back Phil Dollman has recovered from the illness that saw him drop out on the morning of the match against Gloucester.
The last two league games against Bath at Sandy Park have both finished 12-9 to the visitors, and neither has produced a try.