Ian Whitten: Momentum is key for Exeter Chiefs
EXETER Chiefs need to keep the momentum going after their win against Cardiff Blues, according to centre Ian Whitten.
The Irishman crossed for one of his side’s six tries in the 44-29 victory against the Welsh region in the Heineken Cup on Sunday.
That came after a 29-12 success at Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership the week before, as Exeter bounced back from their poor performance against Leicester.
And with a trip to Glasgow in their second Pool Two match this weekend, and league games against Worcester and Sale offering the Chiefs a chance to climb the Premiership table, the 26-year-old is hoping they can stay on an upward curve.
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“We didn’t have a great start to the year, we were a bit slow to start, but we seem to be hitting our straps now,” said Whitten.
“That was great on Sunday and hopefully we can carry that through now because the games just get bigger as you get into the year.
“You’ve got to get into form and maintain it, that’s the crucial thing, so hopefully on Sunday we can turn in a performance that’s good enough to get away from Glasgow with some points.”
After going into their shells against the Tigers last month when they went down 21-9, Exeter have backed themselves and played some expansive rugby to beat Gloucester and the Blues.
And Whitten insists that’s the way they want to play the game over the coming weeks to give themselves a chance of stringing more wins together.
“We try to play rugby. We attack the game and the coaches encourage us to play, which is great,” he said.
“We back ourselves and on Sunday we played some really good stuff. We’ve got to keep backing ourselves and trusting our skills set.
“Our forwards are really great, they’re all good ball players and that helps us play the way we do.
“Hopefully we can keep that style of play and hopefully turn in some more good performances.”
As well as scoring a try on Sunday, Whitten also spent 10 minutes in the sin bin as referee Jerome Garces penalised him for deliberately knocking the ball on during the second half.
Within a minute he was joined in the cooler by fellow centre Sireli Naqelevuki, leaving their teammates to defend with just 13 men for nine minutes.
Whitten felt he let his colleagues down by getting a yellow card, but added that they should be delighted with the way they started the match, as they went 41-3 up before Cardiff fought back.
“We spoke about attacking the game from the start. We knew Cardiff would kick the ball to us a lot so we talked about how we’d counter-attack and get stuck into them,” he said.
“It’s our home patch and the first game of the group so we wanted to put down a marker and we did that really well in the first half.
“We made a lot of line breaks and got the bonus point try before half-time and you’re thinking you’re going really well.
“In the second half, me and Sireli let the boys down for 10 minutes but credit to them, they worked hard while we were off.
“We slipped off a bit in the second half and that’s disappointing, but we’ve got to be very happy with the rugby we played in the first half.”
With Glasgow unbeaten in the RaboDirect Pro12 so far this season, Whitten knows they will pose a tough test this weekend, despite their 51-28 loss against Toulon in the Heineken Cup on Sunday.
“When I played them in the Rabo (when he was at Ulster) they were a good side and they’ve got better in the last two years,” Whitten said of Glasgow.
“They’re one of the very top sides in the Rabo, and they play good rugby with some dangerous backs.
“We know going up there we may not get as much ball kicked to us so it will really test our defence. We’ve got to be switched on because they’re a good side.”