Exeter still on ”Above par season” despite loss

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GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 15: Tom O'Flaherty of Exeter Chiefs breaks away to score his teams second try during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Gloucester Rugby and Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm Stadium on February 15, 2019 in Gloucester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Despite a narrow loss to Gloucester Rob Baxter insists that Exeter’s ”Above par season” will continue. The blip at Kingsholm on Friday saw both sides make plenty of mistakes and ultimately it was the Chiefs who couldn’t get the better of their opposition.

Chiefs must drive performance levels up insists Baxter

Despite two late calls going Gloucester’s way Rob Baxter wasn’t blaming the officials, but insisted his own teams’ performances must rise in the coming weeks: “It’s an interesting time of the season now. I’ve said to the boys it’s about driving up performance levels up and face the challenges we’re going to face over this Six Nations period and that’s what we didn’t do enough of today.”

”We didn’t quite link the areas of the game together as we would normally and it’s cost us in a tight game.”

”It’s been lost in relatively small individual errors or collective moments that just added up to being too fractured. There are things that are in your control and there’s things that aren’t in your control. At least twice today we scored and messed up our next phase which led to scores for Gloucester.

”Those moments when something goes your way and then you reset and you do the next three or four things right to get you over half way and back into the game. Those things we’re typically very clinical with and are solid parts of our game and ultimately those are the things that cost us.

”The odd try goes against you and go your way and the odd decision goes your way but you have to go beyond that and build an 80 minute performance to encapsulate more than we did today.”

Baxter not prepared to blame refereeing

Two decisions went Gloucester’s way in the last few minutes of the game. Firstly, James Hanson took out Tom O’Flaherty but the officials had deemed him not to change the course of his position and thus didn’t affect the eventual try. The second decision was Kvesic’s knock-on which ended the game. To which many Chiefs fans felt he hadn’t even touched the ball.

Speaking on both Baxter said, ”I don’t know what’s happened under the posts so I’m not going to make any comment as I was down by the side line and couldn’t see what happened. This is why you have to play a level beyond it coming down to two calls. It looks to me like there’s a block or collision off the ball. If it was deemed that nothing happened then I haven’t got a problem with that but if it wasn’t checked then that’s a little odd.

”You can’t expect a referee to see everything, that’s why we have a TMO but I’m not going to hand that result on a refereeing decision and the better team ensures the majority of calls go their way.

”I don’t think we were playing at our best and we weren’t particularly fluent but we are dealing with a few challenges. We’re challenging the squad and a few guys stood up really well and we’re facing up to most challenges really well. It wasn’t perfect today but I didn’t expect it to be but we’ve come very close to getting a draw in the last play of the game so there’s a lot of positives there.”

Exeter still on ”Above par season”

Losing to the team that currently lies in fourth after the conclusion round 13 is no shame for Exeter and Baxter insists his side are playing above par rugby: ”We’re playing above par this season but at the same time we need some realities in where we’ll be challenged. Holding on in there and being stubborn is the key characteristic. It’s very easy to be wrapped up in negative things. Gloucester a good team, we’ve come away to a top four team and we’ve been in there fighting till the end in a tough part of the season.

”We got ourselves into some difficult circumstances but we also got ourselves out of some too. Gloucester are a good side, they’re third in the table and aren’t there for no reason. They’re winning games of rugby and are having a good season.”

Chiefs will look to re-fire next weekend against the Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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