Rob Baxter admits Exeter Chiefs’ recent run of Aviva Premiership Rugby defeats is proving a tough nut to crack after being left stunned by a late London Irish drop-goal.
Shane Geraghty dished out the damage with the last action of a thrilling back-and-forth contest, as the Chiefs had looked home and hosed after a 76th-minute Gareth Steenson penalty.
The reliable Steenson kicked 16 points in total while Dean Mumm and Dave Ewers also crossed, but Blair Cowan (2), Alex Lewington and Tom Guest were the try-scorers for London Irish.
And those efforts, added to a Tom Homer penalty and Geraghty’s last-ditch heroics, was enough to condemn Baxter and company to their fourth Aviva Premiership Rugby defeat on the bounce.
It was a tough one wasn't it? We are going through that period where that win is proving tough to find," said Baxter, who also saw his side lose in similarly cruel fashion against Gloucester Rugby last week.
"It was another performance we have put together in this period where we were good in parts. We got back into a winning position but again the decisive last points in the game have come from the opposition.
"I would be sitting here praising the way the team got back into it if that drop-goal misses, but as it is I am a little bit frustrated as several of their tries were from our own making and that is frustrating."
Elsewhere on Sunday, Newcastle Falcons recorded their fourth Aviva Premiership Rugby win of the season with an emphatic 38-7 victory over London Welsh.
Sinoti Sinoti was the mastermind of a breathless first-half as his score, combined with tries from Rob Vickers, Mike Blair and Will Welch, secured the bonus point quickly.
Tom Catterick, impressive in a windy game with four conversions, and Ally Hogg also surged over while Nick Scott’s first-half score was the only source of joy for the Exiles.
In Saturday’s fixtures, Sam Burgess notched his first try in a Bath Rugby shirt as Mike Ford’s men put Wasps to the sword by 39-26.
Wasps mounted a late surge for the bonus point with tries from Alapati Leiua, Ben Jacobs, Nathan Hughes and replacement Alex Lozowski.
However, Francois Louw, Semesa Rokoduguni and Matt Banahan all joined Burgess over the whitewash to leave Ford purring over the potential of his side.
"Sam played his best game and he is definitely on the right track," Ford said.
"We did some good stuff. It wasn't all correct, it wasn't all pretty, but we looked in control and I was pleased with our attacking structure throughout.
"We are still only scratching the surface with this team. It's exciting because we know we can get so much better.”
A Danny Care-inspired Harlequins got their play-off bid back on track with a 32-12 win over Leicester Tigers.
He scored himself and set up Jack Clifford, while Marland Yarde also pounced and replacement Tim Swiel rounded off a perfect afternoon for Quins by grabbing the bonus point. Owen Williams’ four penalties were the only fruits of Leicester’s labour.
But Sale Sharks recorded one of the stories of the round by beating champions Northampton Saints 20-7, Dan Braid and Eifion Lewis-Roberts the try-scorers.
Teimana Harrison did eventually bag a try for the visitors but they were shut out for much of the match, with Jim Mallinder admitting his side were not at their best.
"We look at our game and it wasn't good enough, I think we accept that particularly in the first half we were pretty poor, I think a lot of that comes from Sale's good play. Defensively we need to look at that," he said.
"We are top of the league, which is good, but there are still parts of the game we need to work on, as always.”
James Hook played the hero for Gloucester Rugby as he was calmness personified to score a match-winning, last-gasp penalty over Saracens in a 24-23 win.
Hook notched 14 points in total to Alex Goode’s eight from the tee and that, allied to Dan Robson and Callum Braley tries, was enough to top scores from a penalty try and Billy and Mako Vunipola.
However, the win was marred somewhat with the news of a fractured leg for England No.8 Ben Morgan, while Mark McCall was left to rue the Jekyll and Hyde performance from his side.
"We showed some poor sides to ourselves and some really good sides to ourselves throughout the game,” he said.
“With the breeze, some poor discipline and some pretty average decision making around the break-down in the first half, we gave them a lot of field position and didn't really allow ourselves to build pressure.”
London Irish 28 Exeter Chiefs 26
Tries: Cowan 2, Guest, Lewington
Drop goals: Geraghty
Tries: Mumm, Ewers
Conversions: Steenson 2
Penalties: Steenson 3, Homer
Referee: Dean Richards
Newcastle Falcons 38 London Welsh 7
Tries: Sinoti, Vickers, Blair, Welch, Hogg, Catterick
Conversions: Catterick 4
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Bath Rugby 39 Wasps 26
Tries: Louw, Rokoduguni, Burgess, Banahan, Devoto
Conversions: Ford 4
Penalties: Ford 2
Tries: Leiua, Hughes, Jacobs, Lozowski
Conversions: Goode, Lozowski 2
Referee: Andrew Small
Sale Sharks 20 Northampton Saints 7
Tries: Lewis-Roberts, Braid
Conversions: Cipriani 2
Penalties: Cipriani 2
Referee: Matthew Carley
Harlequins 32 Leicester Tigers 12
Tries: Care, Clifford, Yarde, Swiel,
Conversions: Botica 2, Swiel
Penalties: Botica 2
Penalties: Williams 4
Referee: Luke Pearce
Gloucester 24 Saracens 23
Tries: Robson, Braley
Penalties: Hook 4
Tries: penalty, B.Vunipola, M.Vunipola
Penalties: Goode 2
Referee: JP Doyle