TOP BAR - Fixtures

Rob Baxter praises all-round team effort at Exeter Chiefs

Head coach Rob Baxter hailed his Exeter Chiefs side as they saw off local rivals Bath Rugby to close the gap on leaders Saracens at the top of the Aviva Premiership.

Fresh from victory away to London Irish the week previous, the Devon club pocketed only their second-ever league win against Bath at a packed out Sandy Park.

Skipper Gareth Steenson was the chief architect of the home side’s 26-17 win, plundering four penalties and also converting tries for Ian Whitten and Kai Horstmann. The Irishman’s 16-point haul took him to 1,000 top flight points and edged him ever closer to Tony Yapp’s all-time scoring record for the Chiefs.

Bath countered with two converted Amanaki Mafi tries either side of the break, while full-back Tom Homer also slotted a second half penalty, but it was never enough against Baxter’s side, who in the process also avenged their narrow opening day defeat at the Recreation Ground.

At the final whistle, the Exeter leader was quick to praise the "all-round effort" of his troops in battle and said his side’s 10th league win of the campaign was "fully deserved".

"It's nice to finally start to feel like we are getting on the right side of games with Bath," said Baxter afterwards. "We have gone a long time losing to them in tight games in close circumstances and we have come through another tough one today.

"I have just said to the lads, great credit to them because I think the last half-hour of that game showed tremendous spirit from us and a desire to work hard to win that game. The five minutes before and after half time when they scored their two tries, it did take the wind out of our sails for a little bit, but I was delighted at the way the players then wrestled it back.

"I thought our discipline was fantastic, because it had to be especially into the wind, and ultimately Bath's let them down under pressure, so great credit to the guys. To then bang in that try and really open things up at the end, it was a fantastic moment for us."

With the Six Nations Championship robbing the Chiefs of a number of players, including tight-head props Tomas Francis and Moray Low, it meant summer signing Harry Williams was handed his first Premiership start and the former Jersey man did not disappoint.

Baxter added: "Wasn’t it great to see Harry Williams come in and our scrum go well? You have to great credit to the players and to [forward coach] Rob Hunter, who has done a great job with a changed up scrum this week.

"We went from having a dominant scrum last week at Irish and losing both tight-heads to having he dominant scrum again today, which is fantastic. It was also great to have Dave Ewers back running around and getting what was a pretty good 60 minute performance under his belt.

"Overall, though, I think the players have got the reward for some very hard work and mental toughness and that always pleases me more than points on the board.

"I said before the game that we had to play like we deserved to win, just because when we do that it gives us the chance to beat any side. In the past when we've lost to Bath we probably haven't always deserved to win, but today I thought we thoroughly deserved to win and we have."

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