?Rob Baxter hopes Exeter Chiefs’ hard-fought win over London Irish will prove crucial at the end of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season as they look to reach the play-offs for the first time.
The Chiefs bounced back from successive defeats to beat Irish 22-15, as they came back from a half-time deficit to win.
Dave Lewis scored the Chiefs’ only try, while Gareth Steenson racked up 17 points against the basement side.
And with Exeter now ten points clear of fifth-placed Leicester Tigers, Baxter knows that every point is crucial.
“I’ve said to the players, don’t underestimate what an important result today was,” he said.
“I thought credit to London Irish, they played very well and were very tough opponents. We’ve had to battle and in a way that is good for us.
“Having to come here and battle through a really tough performance and show our mettle, I think down the line we’ll look back at this result and hopefully it will prove very important for us.
“We’re looking pretty safe from relegation. That box we’ve ticked off. We’re pretty pleased with where we are.
"That’s what today was about, keeping yourself there because there’s no doubt the chasing pack is closing in and it’s becoming bigger and bigger.
“There’s a whole raft of teams just behind us and if anyone puts together a decent run they’ll be in that top four pretty quickly. Games like today are where you make your season-defining points.”
While Exeter are well-placed in second, there are serious concerns for Irish, who are now five points adrift at the foot of the table.
With Worcester Warriors and Newcastle Falcons both winning this weekend, the Exiles could ill-afford to go down at home, but director of rugby Tom Coventry admits their indiscipline – they picked up two yellow cards – was proving costly.
“We did enough in the first half to be right in the game,” he said.
“It’s disappointing obviously, where we are at in the table we have to be pretty disappointed with today’s loss at home. But we showed some grit today and fought right to the end of the match and that hasn’t always been a trait we’ve had throughout the season so that was pleasing.
“When things aren’t going your way you pick up yellow cards. When you’re a team under pressure things sometimes go against you. We’ve got to be better, discipline has to be better.
“We can’t afford to play with 14 men for that period of time against the second best team in the competition. It’s something we’ll address.”
London Irish 15 Exeter Chiefs 22
London Irish: Fenby, Ojo, Mulchrone, Williams, Hearn, Brophy Clews, Steele (Allinson 63), Smallbone (Court 53), Paice (Ellis 68), Aulika (Halavatau 53), Symons (Nagle 24), Stooke, Treviranus (Trayfoot 61), Narraway, McCusker
Not Used: Geraghty, Lewis-Pratt
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman, Woodburn, Whitten, Hill S (Campagnaro 60), Short, Steenson, Chudley (Lewis 47), Moon (Hepburn 55), Yeandle (Cowan-Dickie 55), Low (Francis 55), Hill J (Atkins 60), Parling, Armand, Salvi, Waldrom (Horstmann 74)
Not Used: Hooley
Tries: Treviranus, Ojo
Conversions: Brophy Clews
Penalties: Brophy Clews
Penalties: Steenson 5
Referee: Dean Richards