Hayes calls on Exeter Chiefs team-mates to learn from harsh lessons of their Heineken Cup adventure
Exeter Chiefs skipper Tom Hayes has urged his side to learn from their Heineken Cup experiences when they return to Aviva Premiership action this weekend.
The Chiefs suffered two defeats in their first-ever Heineken Cup matches against Leinster and Clermont Auvergne.
Their focus now returns to the league with a trip to Bath this weekend, and Hayes hopes his side learn and improve after beginning their European campaign.
He said: “We will be better from it, if we learn from it. We don’t automatically become a better team just by playing a game with higher-level players. If we just roll through it and think we’ll be better because of it, it doesn’t just happen.
“We have to learn the lessons from it so we know how to deal with it better the next time a game like that comes around.
“We have to learn those lessons quickly because, the higher you go, the more those mistakes can hurt you.
“We don’t have to go and reinvent the wheel to sort ourselves out for next week, but we know there are errors we are going to have get out of our game to try and put in a quality performance next time.”
The Chiefs were widely praised for their display in a
9-6 defeat to reigning Heineken Cup holders Leinster, but suffered a heavy 46-12 defeat against Clermont at Sandy Park last weekend.
A good first-half performance saw them take a 12-10 lead into the half-time break but the French Top 14 side were unstoppable after the interval.
“It is one of those harsh lessons you learn at the highest level of rugby,” said Hayes.
“We always knew it was going to be tough and they came in the second half and kept hold of the ball. We just coughed it up a little bit to easily.
“The mistakes didn’t punish us as much in the first half, even though we didn’t turn our pressure into points.
“In the second half, in the field positions where we coughed up the ball and gave away penalties, it just handed all the momentum to them and they just kept going at us for the whole half.
“They just kept hold of the ball a lot more, particularly in the field positions where they got possession. We got the ball into the right areas and got penalties. We just didn’t get hold of the ball enough in the second half.”
The Chiefs’ prospects of advancement from Group Five are now minimal, with Clermont and Leinster fighting for top spot.
However, the Devon club will continue to fight for a positive outcome when the Heineken Cup resumes with two games against Scarlets in December.
“It is still great for the club,” said Hayes. “Everyone is excited and proud of getting the club into the Heineken Cup. There is plenty there for the club to be positive about.
“The whole world doesn’t fall apart just because of one fairly heavy loss. We have to be positive and pragmatic moving forward. We will still go and attack the next game.
“That’s life at this level of rugby. There are tough games coming around again straight away. We can’t just sit there and feel sorry for ourselves.”