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Back to basics approach for Chiefs

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter insists he and his teams will go "back to the bare bones" in a bid to address their recent loss of form in the Aviva Premiership.

The Devon club slipped to a fourth successive top flight defeat as Shane Geraghty’s last-gasp drop-goal gave London Irish a priceless 28-26 victory at the Madejski Stadium.

For a second successive week, it was a bitter pill to swallow for Baxter and his team who, with just over a minute remaining, appeared to be in control of proceedings having clawed their way back into the contest thanks to converted tries from Dean Mumm and Dave Ewers, as well as four penalties from fly-half Gareth Steenson.

Irish, though, would never lie down and they claimed all five points thanks to tries from Blair Cowan (2), Tom Guest and Alex Lexington, whilst Geraghty and Tom Homer shared the remainder of their points with the boot.

"It was a tough one, wasn't it?" said a disappointed Baxter post-match. "Right now we are going through that period where that win is proving tough to find.

"It was another performance we have put together in this period where we were good in parts and you can’t fault the endeavour of the guys to get themselves back into a winning position on a couple of occasions, this despite having a couple of hammer blows go in there, but again the decisive last points in the game have come from the opposition.

"Yes it’s tough to take. I could have been 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."

Baxter continued: "I’m not going to say anything different to you that I haven’t said to the players already. When you watch things from a distance, like you do here, it was almost like we were a bit hesitant in what we’re doing, almost expecting things to happen.

"I’m sure when we review the game on Tuesday, I’m sure there will be guys who will say ‘I thought this would happen or that would happen’ and that’s what it is going to be like. Also, there were a couple of scrappy things around the line-out, miscommunication going on, and little bit like that all game.

"I expected bits of that today, simply because I knew we would be a bit nervy. We’ve put pressure on ourselves to be at the top end of the league and had we won today we’d have been back in the top four. But with the three losses we’ve had recently, it was always going to be make us a bit nervous and no matter what i said or did, this group of players were going to be nervy and I thought they proved that a little bit today.

"That said, you have got to give them credit for bouncing back from those two quicker scores because on another day, away from home, it would have been very easy to cave in. With a minute left on the clock, in their defensive quarter, you think we have a good opportunity to win, but it wasn’t to be."

Despite the loss, Exeter’s losing bonus point did lift them back into fifth place in the table, just a point behind next best Wasps and three behind third-placed Saracens.

For the next month, though, it will be Cup matters – both in Europe and the LV= Cup – that will take priority for the Chiefs and Baxter believes the change of focus could act as a nice distraction for his players.

"We have the opportunity of four weeks now that will offer us a different distraction," said Baxter. "We will look at a few things and there will be a bit of brutal honesty that we can lay on the guys now after the last few weeks.

"As I have said to them, you should want to be in the Premiership because it’s a tough competition. We played extremely well to get in that top three earlier this season, we really did, and you wouldn’t watch those games and say we didn’t play well, because we did.

"It was a group of guys who were ripping everything away with every action they did. We didn’t expect anything to happen, we made it happen, and that’s what we have to do. We have to go back to the bare bones of things.

"Today was almost like we will do A,B & C and D & E all happen, but it doesn’t quite work like that. You ram home A, you ram home B and sometimes C might get you some momentum for D & E to happen. Right now, we’re not getting to the Ds and Es."

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