Steenson calls on his team-mates to stick with Exeter Chiefs' attacking formula
Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson believes it is important the Chiefs keep believing in the attacking game they have been playing this season.
The Devon side have failed to win any of their last four matches in the Aviva Premiership, and have paid a high price in most of those games for failing to take their scoring chances.
Only three tries in that quartet of fixtures tells its own story, for a side who earlier in the season were the joint top try scorers in the league with reigning league champions Harlequins.
It was again a shortcoming in the first half against Sale at the Salford City Stadium on Friday night, when Exeter should have been much further ahead than their 13-5 interval lead, and eventually lost the game 21-16 to the Premiership’s bottom side.
“We created chances in the first half, which was great. That is what we are trying to do, but it is just our finishing [that is a problem],” said Steenson.
“We didn’t take our opportunities, but we always felt like things were going well.
“Watisoni Votu getting a try for us was good, but there were a couple of chances in the corner which didn’t go our way, which was very disappointing, and if you take chances like that, it might be a different result.”
Asked why converting scoring opportunities into points was currently a problem for the Chiefs, Steenson added: “It is tough to put your finger on it.
“We are creating the chances, which is fantastic, and we are getting into the right areas of the pitch, and it has got to click at some point.
“We just have to be confident and stick with what we are doing, and keep working hard, and hopefully it will come.”
Steenson’s boot helped Exeter to build up a 16-5 lead after 44 minutes, with his four-from-four success rate bagging him 11 points. He has incredibly slotted his last 18 kicks at goal in Premiership matches.
However, Sale then scored 16 points without reply to give their hopes of staying in the Premiership a major boost.
“You saw 40 minutes of good rugby from us, and then 40 minutes of basically destructive rugby, there is no other way I can put it,” said the 28-year-old Irishman. “It is very disappointing how we played that second half.
“We talked at half-time about doing specific things, and we went out and did the exact opposite.
“Credit to Sale, they came out and threw everything at us, but I think we just didn’t perform in that second half.”
He added: “The fight was there from Sale and they gave it their best shot and came away with the right result, which is fair play to them.
“They are going to have to work really hard and get a home run going [to stay up]. They are a hard, physical team, they always are, and we will see how they go for the rest of the season.”
Exeter now turn their attentions to a very tough trip on Saturday to third-place Saracens, who will be playing their first league match at their new Allianz Park home, complete with artificial pitch.
It remains to be seen how many of their internationals are released by England head coach Stuart Lancaster to play in the game, as it is a blank weekend in the RBS 6 Nations Championship.
Former Cornish Pirates fly-half Steenson said: “The surface at Sale was as good a surface as you will play on.
“I haven’t a clue what the surface at Saracens is going to be like, but it is made to provide an entertaining, running game.
“It is going to be a big challenge going up there.
“We will look at what we did wrong last Friday, see what we did well, and work hard and get ready for Saracens and give it everything we have got.”
With Exeter now lying seventh in the table and four points off the top six, there is a feeling amongst some fans that the season is in danger of fizzling out, but Steenson said that certainly did not apply to the players.
“I don’t think there is that sort of fear,” he commented. “We went up to Sale and came away with a point, and it is not all doom and gloom.
“Winning away in the Premiership is not easy, especially against a side fighting for their lives.
“We have just got to get the balance right. We want to be ambitious, we want to play Heineken Cup rugby again next season, and we have just got to push that forward.”