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Midfield trio earn Baxter’s praise

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Henry Slade underlined his growing stature in the Aviva Premiership as his 27-point haul helped Exeter Chiefs to a 32-21 victory away to Harlequins on Saturday.

The young fly-half played an instrumental role for the Devon club, scoring a try, two conversions and six penalties as the Chiefs netted their first league double of the campaign at the Twickenham Stoop.

It was another highly polished performance from the 21-year-old, who together with fellow youngsters Sam Hill and Jack Nowell provided an exciting and powerful midfield combination for the Chiefs.

Post-match, head coach Rob Baxter was quick to pay tribute to the trio, including Plymouth-born Slade. He said: "Henry is up against some very good players in the England set-up, but he looks like the guy who is going to have the most complete package in the future.

"He is playing very, very well. He kicked very maturely today, both at the posts and for field-position.

"Everyone knows he is a very good and strong defender and today he showed some real attacking quality as well. Ball in hand he glided in for his try, he almost looked untouchable.

"He has got some fantastic attributes and that midfield of Slade, Sam Hill and Jack Nowell looks a very good set-up. Right now Henry is getting the plaudits he deserves with the other guys around him."

On an impressive day for the Chiefs, it was not just Slade who shined at the Twickenham Stoop. Right across the board all the Exeter players put in a shift that helped to cement them back in the top four of the division.

Baxter continued: "You could go through 1 to 15 and find some outstanding individual moments. I think Hilly is almost the forgotten man of that midfield, but he was outstanding.

“Nowellsy looked almost irresistible and it’s going to be very difficult for him not to get back into the England side when you look at that performance.

"There were some real lung-busting runs in there and he looked sharp and strong."

Cornishman Nowell was only released from the England camp on Thursday and many are tipping him to return to the international fold against Ireland in Dublin.

Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, but Baxter said the player himself was keen to be part of his side’s plans against Harlequins.

"He was desperate to get back playing with us despite training with the England team and I think that really shows masses about his character," added Baxter.  "He didn’t want the weekend off, he wanted to get back playing with us on the pitch and that kind of quality is running through the team at the moment."

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