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Baxter confident that Chiefs can handle now-found status

Baxter confident that Chiefs can handle now-found status

Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter hailed his side’s 15-9 victory over relegation-threatened Leeds Carnegie as their "biggest win" of the season.

Ryan Davis claimed all Exeter's points with five penalties to three from Leeds' Ceiron Thomas as Chiefs handled the pressure of being favourites instead of underdogs.

"As I said to the players in the dressing room, this was our biggest win, without doubt," said Baxter. "The pressure that is on a team when you are expected to win, or when things are going well, is totally different."

Exeter led 6-3 at half-time and Baxter felt a change of tactics was needed.

"Although we started with a controlled display and got some penalties we were going through the motions a little bit. We re-grouped at half time, having given away a lot of possession and ball in the first half.

"We had players making offloads who would normally carry. We almost tried to play pretty and I think you have to beat Leeds by being direct, physical and hard. We got back to that in the second half and ultimately that is what won us the game.

"We are a team that thrives on tempo and that was lacking at times in this game but for us to come through the second half as strong as we did was great credit to the players."

Exeter face another home game against struggling Sale Sharks next and Baxter added: "You start to feel an improvement when you see back to back wins together.

"We've jumped up the table because we've beaten Saracens and now Leeds. Obviously we have to target every home game and I think we'll be talking all week about attacking Sale and not being nervous."

Exeter dominated the first half and led 6-3 at the break through two penalties in the opening 10 minutes from Davies with Leeds reducing the arrears just before the break after a penalty from fly-half Thomas.

Swansea-born Thomas levelled the scores 10 minutes in to the second half only for his opposite number to nudge the Chiefs in front with two more penalties as the game went in to the final 10 minutes.

Davis landed his fifth penalty before Thomas kicked his third to earn the visitors a losing bonus point.

Leeds head coach Neil Back was left to reflect on an eighth straight defeat.

"We tried to play from too deep and when points were scored against us we gave the ball back too cheaply," he said. "We kicked in areas where there was no competition and gave them a free kick back.

"The passion, desire, work rate and effort is fantastic and belies the position we are in but we have to combine it with some smart decision making.

"We definitely have the players that are able to do it and we need to do it under pressure. We have to learn quickly. There are still a lot of points to be won.

"We know that from last season when we were in a similar position. We got what was needed to consolidate our place in the Premiership and we believe we can still do that."

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