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Exeter Chiefs’ Geoff Parling: "We must regroup"

Exeter Chiefs lock Geoff Parling insists he and his team-mates must regroup quickly ahead of their upcoming Aviva Premiership trip to Sale Sharks this Saturday.

Rob Baxter's side saw their 13-month long unbeaten home record ended at the weekend as league leaders Saracens edged home 14-11 at a packed Sandy Park.

In a tight encounter between the division's top two sides, it was Charlie Hodgson's late penalty that ultimately proved the difference.

The former England international fly-half landed three second half penalties for the visitors, who have now moved five points clear of the Chiefs at the summit.

Earlier, though, the Chiefs appeared in fine fettle as they raced into an 11-0 lead thanks to a try from winger James Short and two penalties from Gareth Steenson.

However, some ill-discipline just before the break from the Devon club allowed Saracens to position themselves deep into Exeter's 22 with a series of line-outs, the last of which enabled No.8 Samu Vunisa to cross.

It was a crucial score for Mark McCall's side, who earlier were grateful to referee Thomas Foley for chalking off a potential second try for the Chiefs through Ollie Atkins.

The Aussie forward was denied a maiden try when Foley blew up for a supposed knock-on from club-mate Olly Woodburn in the build-up to him touching down. Sadly, TV replays later showed there was in fact no knock-on from the home side and that the score should have stood.

"We can complain about that decision in the first half and a few other bits, but if we had been better and our discipline had been better then they wouldn't have been in the game and we would have had a commanding lead anyway," said the England and British Lions star.

"Yes, we are disappointed to say the least because it was definitely a game we could have won.

"The discipline at the end of that first half – we gave away a lot of penalties on the trot – killed us a bit. To be fair, Sarries were pretty street-smart. They kicked well and they kept us in our half well."

With Exeter's 15-match unbeaten run at home now ended, Parling believes it's imperative the Chiefs get back on track immediately, starting with a big performance against Sale Sharks.

"We have got eight Premiership games left on the trot and we just have to go again, learn our lessons and keep picking ourselves up," said the 32-year-old.

"It is going to be a tough slog in these next few Premiership games, but we just have to keep going. We just need to regroup and build, but we can't make the errors that we did against Saracens.

"Sale have a good home record, they're a good team and they pride themselves up front, so it should a good battle between the forwards."

The Chiefs will head into the contest knowing they have already defeated the Sharks already this term, collecting maximum reward from a 33-17 win on Boxing Day.

Sale, meanwhile, warmed up for the clash with a 10-3 victory away to Leicester Tigers.

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