Baxter rues missed opportunity

Date published: January 8 2017

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has lamented his side’s failure to beat a 14-man Saracens in their top four clash at Allianz Park on Saturday.

The Chiefs led through a converted Jack Nowell try and Gareth Steenson penalty, but after Saracens were reduced to 14 men early in the first half, the visitors failed to capatalise on their advantage and secure a big win.

The hosts did well to draw the game 13-13 after Richard Barrington’s red card thanks to a try five minutes from time by Titi Lamositele.

Baxter admitted after the game that his team missed a big opportunity to score a vital win on the road.

“I think we have to be disappointed,” said Baxter. “To play with 15 men against 14 for so long and to get a little bit of space on the scoreboard and not convert more of the chances we created, especially five metres out, has ultimately cost us.

“We also have to be disappointed that Saracens controlled much more of the second half than we did. This was a top four clash and to have that happen to us is something we will undoubtedly have to talk about next week. It has to be something that burns a little bit, just because opportunities like this you work extremely hard for, and you need to take them when they come along.”

This draw follows two wins over Leicester and Bath for Exeter who cap off a positive three weeks in the Premiership.

“I think the massive positive to come out of today was that probably for the first time in three or four games against Saracens, I thought we hit the pitch with a greater degree of intensity than they did,” added Baxter.

“Personally, that pleased me more than anything else we did because it showed we turned up in the right mind-set and that whatever happened today, I knew we were going to be competitive.

“This may sound silly, but I am not sure who the red card suited more,” added Baxter. “We know Saracens are a very good side, very single-minded and very disciplined, but I just think when the red card came, it just made things very simple for them. They went to eight forwards, took a back off, and just said they were going to back their forwards to take control for them. Fair play to them, I thought they did it very well.

“They worked extremely hard round the setpiece, extremely hard around the tight carries, and they ultimately did enough to win the game, so full credit to them for that. From our perspective, though, we should feel more frustrated that with 15 men, we didn’t have more control in that second half.

“We had it in the first half and if Don Armand dots down or we convert one or our other chances, it could easily have been a much different game. As I said, fair play to them, they put the squeezed on us and in the end got the field position to convert that match-drawing try.”