Rob Baxter delighted as Exeter Chiefs end away jinx
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter expressed his delight at finally securing a first Aviva Premiership away win of the season with a 27-23 success at London Irish in Reading yesterday.
The triumph lifted Exeter into sixth place in the table and only five points behind leaders Harlequins.
"The four league points are hugely important for us at this time of the year, but it is also nice to get a little bit of a monkey off our back," said Baxter.
"We might be doing very well at Sandy Park, but prior to this game we had yet to win away from home in the league.
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"I think that was evident a little bit today in some of our play, but on the whole we deserved the win, based on our creativity at times, and our doggedness on other occasions, so I am very pleased with the points.
"I am a little frustrated we didn't make it easier for ourselves, but at the same time, sometimes when you go away from home, you just take what you can get."
Baxter was referring to the fact the Chiefs saw a 21-3 advantage after only 18 minutes slip away as Irish led 23-21 early in the second half, before two Gareth Steenson penalties turned the game back in Exeter's favour.
"We rested nearly the whole of our starting line-up today right through the LV= Cup period to really create some energy and freshen them up, and I think we saw the benefits of that massively in the first quarter," he said.
"However, what was frustrating for both myself and the players is that we kind of lost track of what had worked well for us.
"We were carrying the ball well and directly, we were taking good decisions on changing direction, we were kicking intelligently, and, when we were on the front foot and they were on the back foot, we were creating pressure situations for London Irish to deal with.
"Those situations will eventually crack a side if you keep hammering away.
"However, we then started to try and play what I call pretty rugby, and play around London Irish.
"Three or four times after that first quarter, we just passed the ball down the line for no real reason, just to get the ball to a guy to get isolated on the end and turned over, and the momentum of the game shifted.
"Those were choices we made, and they are the things we have got to work on to get better at."
Painful memories of the 25-24 early-season defeat against London Welsh, when Exeter raced into a big lead and then saw the result slip through their grasp, came rushing back into the minds of Chiefs' supporters, but Baxter felt yesterday was a bit different.
"In that game we got a lead and then it got frustrating and we got a bit loose, and that part of it was similar to today, but on this occasion we regathered ourselves a little bit better, and the bench did some good things when they came on," he explained.
"We were a little unfortunate that Jack Nowell's try was disallowed near the end, because I am pretty certain that, if television footage had been used, it would have been allowed.
"He didn't grasp the ball cleanly, but I don't think the ball ever went forward and then he landed on it.
"However, in the final few moments of the game, we ground out an important win and we have just got to make sure that keeps us ambitious and keeps us looking up the table."