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Match Reaction: Harlequins 26 Exeter Chiefs 39

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter believes his side are continuing to be a joy to coach after becoming the second side in Aviva Premiership Rugby history to register a perfect 30 points from six games.

That honour came with this latest 39-26 win over Harlequins, going 13 games unbeaten in Aviva Premiership Rugby to reaffirm their bid for a home semi-final come the season’s end.

Henry Slade’s try secured the bonus point in a second half that saw the Chiefs at their fluent best, as Lachlan Turner scored twice after first-half scores for Dave Ewers and Michele Campagnaro.

Mat Luamanu, Nick Evans and Tim Visser crossed for Quins, though Baxter was left in no doubt about what is driving his side forward in their bid for glory.

“We have a genuine belief that if we work hard we will get something out of games,” he said.

“And because that’s there we’re on a nice cycle from it. We conceded an intercept try but we know it’s not the end of the world – it used to be – and we’re scoring more points for both teams in our attack and defence.

“We’ve got a resilience, we’ve got a good work ethic and the guys are getting the rewards for that hard work.

“It makes them easy to coach – every time they read the paper or come into the changing room the results are there, they’re looking at being second in the table and it’s easy to come and work hard.

“We’ve got quite a few combinations that work well together, we moved Henry Slade over and had Gareth Steenson on and still maintained that fluidity.

“I like having interesting selection problems, it keeps them all fresh and hungry and in the second half we brought the best out of all our backline.”

Quins had started on the front foot at the Stoop, Luamanu crossing with barely two minutes on the board after finding the gap down the left wing after some zipping passes opened up the opportunity.

Evans then turned back the years for a brilliant intercept try, but from there Exeter took control, despite some scintillating rugby being played by the home side.

Visser’s late try proved to be only a consolation for John Kingston’s charges, with this just a second defeat of the season at the Stoop.

And the director of rugby felt it was a game they undoubtedly deserved more from, now with two games left to determine their place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.

“The intensity of the performance was top, top drawer, but there were a couple of slip-ups in concentration,” said Kingston.

“Exeter are a top-drawer side, they’ve defended unbelievably well and we threw the kitchen sink at them, but everything seemed to bounce into their hands.

“We’ve come away with nothing which is very harsh in light of the performance out there. For 65 minutes I think we were the better side, we should have been further ahead than we were, but these things happen.

“We’ve got a game in two weeks’ time so we have to get ourselves back up for that, but if we play with the intensity that we did in this game then we can still do things. We’ve got two matches to try and make this top six.

“The guys are absolutely gutted about the way it slipped away, the crowd were fantastic and we’ll need that again in two weeks’ time.”

Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Marchant (Alofa, 67), Roberts, Visser; Evans (Swiel, 70), Care; Marler, Buchanan (Gray, 5-14, 70), Sinckler (Collier, 61), Matthews (Merrick, 63), Horwill, Robshaw, Wallace, Luamanu.
Not used: Lambert, Ward, Mulchrone,

Exeter Chiefs: Turner; Woodburn, Campagnaro (Steenson, 61), Devoto (Hill, 57), Short; Slade, Maunder (Townsend, 69); Rimmer (Moon, 50), Yeandle (Malton, 67), G Holmes (Francis, 50), Dennis, Parling (Atkins, 77), Ewers, Armand, Horstmann (Salvi, 57).

Harlequins 26
Tries: Luamanu, Evans, Visser
Conversions: Swiel
Penalties: Evans 3

Exeter Chiefs 39
Tries: Ewers, Campagnaro, Turner 2, Slade
Conversions: Slade, Steenson 3
Penalties: Slade 2

Referee: Wayne Barnes

Tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final is on 27 May at Twickenham are now on sale. If you want to have an unforgettable day out at club rugby’s best Cup Final then click here for tickets.

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