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Baxter demands Exeter Chiefs response as Saracens and Wasps enjoy European success

Head coach Rob Baxter demanded an angry response from his Exeter Chiefs side after Sunday’s defeat, but there were plenty of positives for the Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs during the opening weekend of European action.

Saracens and Wasps both produced fantastic results against Toulon and Zebre respectively in the Champions Cup whilst there was also a last-gasp win for Northampton Saints.

There were also victories for Harlequins, Gloucester Rugby and Bath Rugby in the Challenge Cup, with the latter two both successful away in France.

On Sunday though, with the sad news of Anthony Foley’s death overshadowing the game at Sandy Park, Wesley Fofana scored two tries as a clinical display from ASM Clermont Auvergne saw them win 35-8.

Sam Hill got a late consolation for the hosts but head coach Rob Baxter is expecting a reaction in training from the Chiefs this week as they prepare to take on Ulster Rugby this Saturday.

“We’ve got a few questions to ask ourselves,” he said.

“I just told the players to make sure that their response is not to feel sorry for themselves, but actually to feel a bit angry – we should feel a bit angry with the level of performance out there tonight.

“As long as when the boys come training on Tuesday they are a bit angry, and they are prepared to do something about it, then I will be quite happy.

“I don’t mind us losing – we’ve lost by more points than that during my time at Exeter to far worse teams than Clermont.”

Saracens were Aviva Premiership Rugby’s success story of the weekend however with their Champions Cup victory in France over Toulon – the first time the hosts have lost on home soil in the competition.

Mark McCall’s men were sensational and wrote another chapter for themselves in the history of European rugby with a 31-23 win, the performance of returning England fly-half Owen Farrell being a particular highlight.

The fly-half was at his clinical best from the tee and ended up with 16 points to his name after tries from Sean Maitland, Richard Wigglesworth and Chris Wyles had given Saracens a 28-9 lead.

Levan Chilachava and Bryan Habana responded for Toulon while Maro Itoje was in the sin bin, but Farrell had the last word with a late penalty.

“It was a great effort from the group, to come to a place like this and get a result is a massive scalp,” said Farrell.

“But there are still things to work on, our discipline was not great in the second half and I am sure we will look at that.

“Having said that, beating a terrific team like Toulon is a great start. It is a great start, but that is all it is, we have got the Scarlets next week and we need to back up this result.

“I was a bit stiff coming towards the end of the game but we held on. I was ready for that, I was itching to be back out there and that was a great way to come back.”

Wasps were also rewriting the record books as they ran riot over Italian side Zebre at the Ricoh Arena, scoring 12 tries to the Italians’ two.

Danny Cipriani demonstrated his abilities with ball in hand and from the tee, pulling the strings from fly-half and converting six of Wasps’ tries in the 82-14 win.

Ten different players crossed the whitewash as Dai Young’s men set new records for their highest margin of victory and points scored and the director of rugby was suitably delighted.

“We couldn’t have asked for much more, getting the five points secured early on in the game and we kept our foot on the pedal which was pleasing,” he said.

“You obviously never get a perfect performance, but you’ve certainly got to be pleased with that out there.

“If we can get penetration, we’ve obviously got the backs that can finish off chances for us if you put them into space.

“We’ve now lost that underdog tag and we know there are some big games on the horizon. For us we just need to worry about ourselves, while always being respectful of the opposition.”

Elsewhere Northampton Saints secured a late victory over Challenge Cup champions Montpellier, with Stephen Myler nailing a penalty as the clock ticked past 80 minutes.

Myler took his own tally to 11 points with the gutsy penalty, with Calum Clark the only try scorer for the hosts in the 16-14 triumph.

Finally in the Champions Cup, Leicester Tigers were beaten 42-13 by Glasgow Warriors on Friday night and Sale Sharks fell to a 28-11 defeat to the Scarlets.

In the Challenge Cup, there was a strong performance from last year’s finalists Harlequins as James Chisholm and Tim Visser both bagged a pair of tries as Quins beat Stade Francais 43-21.

Marland Yarde, Joe Marchant and Joe Marler also crossed the whitewash at the Twickenham Stoop.

Bath were outscored by three tries to one against Pau, but Rhys Priestland kicked the visitors to victory with six penalties and a conversion in the 25-22 win.

Jonny May scored on his return from injury to the Gloucester Rugby side as the Cherry & Whites beat Bayonne 47-27 with Matt Scott, Billy Twelvetrees, Tom Savage, and Mark Atkinson all scoring tries.

A young Worcester Warriors side were downed in Russia 19-12 by Enisei-STM while Newcastle Falcons lost 45-0 to Ospreys and Bristol Rugby were defeated by Cardiff Blues 33-20.

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