Rob Baxter sees positives from ‘improving’ Exeter despite Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final defeat
Rob Baxter believes Exeter Chiefs will only keep improving after suffering their second successive Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final defeat to Saracens in record breaking fashion on Saturday.
In a pulsating opening half, the Chiefs scored tries through Nic White, Dave Ewers and Jonny Hill to lead 22-16 at the break, with Henry Slade extending their advantage by five further points in the second half.
However, tries by Liam Williams, Sean Maitland and Jamie George saw Sarries storm back to retain their title and win a fourth in five years, pulling off the biggest comeback in Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final history.
- Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final report
- Key moments and analysis from the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final
- How social media reacted to the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final
Despite the obvious disappointment at having come so close, Baxter is keen to focus on the positives on another successful season where his team finished the regular season eight points clear at the top and dominated the European champions for large periods of the final.
He said: “It was a heck of a game.We showed we have moved forward from last year and the choice now is to say that this breaks us or we keep driving forward and use this pain in pre-season.
“We went toe-to-toe with the European champions for 80 minutes. We are a young side and I see improvement every day. The players can be proud of how close they came to beating Saracens.
“Their [Saracens’] record speaks for itself. They’re winning Premierships, they’re winning European Cups. That said, it feels to me like we’re disappointed that we haven’t beaten them, so that bodes well.
“What I have to do now is convince this group of players that if they keep working hard and moving in the right direction, we should be challenging again next year. If you can take the European champions that close, then there has to be more in Europe for us.”
Painstakingly close for @ExeterChiefs 😔
A try that summarises their endeavour and quality 💎
Next year Chiefs will ____ 🧐 pic.twitter.com/sK2REyAoF6
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) June 2, 2019
One major area of concern for the Chiefs, and England, with the World Cup in mind, was the sight of full-back Jack Nowell hobbling off injured in the second half.
Full-back Nowell, who had put in a spectacular performance in the final, will have a scan on his left ankle to examine the extent of the injury.
“It’s a little early to say about Jack. I haven’t been able to catch up with him or the medics who are dealing with him,” Baxter said.
“I would imagine it will be the usual story – until he has a scan, we won’t know. It looked like his ankle and he has had a couple of ankle issues this season.
“He was outstanding. He was very difficult to put on the floor – very strong, quick and elusive.”