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American football commentary has Baxter still believing in Exeter

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Rob Baxter is hoping that the form of his Exeter for the remainder of the 2022/23 campaign can resemble the NFL Dallas Cowboys. The Chiefs were hammered last weekend at Saracens in the Gallagher Premiership, their sixth loss in eleven matches this season. Having reached the Premiership final on six successive occasions between 2016 and 2021, lifting the trophy twice in the process, the famed consistency in the Exeter results has waned in recent times.

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Last season, they finished off the playoff pace in seventh place after they lost eleven of their 24 matches and this term’s results so far have also been only good enough for just seventh place again in what is now only an eleven-team Premiership following the collapse of Wasps and Worcester.

Only in the opening two weekends of the season have Exeter chalked up back-to-back wins in the league, their three other victories in the competition getting immediately followed by losses. That sequence happened again over the recent holiday period, the Chiefs’ win over Bath getting followed by their 3-35 thumping at Saracens.

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Being Barbarians – Rugby Documentary
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Being Barbarians – Rugby Documentary

Ahead of this Saturday’s home game versus Northampton, Baxter is hoping that a glance last Sunday at some NFL action on TV can help focus minds and keep Exeter believing that success is still possible this season because while Dallas have lost four games in their NFL campaign, those losses were followed by streaks of four, two, four and two wins.

“If you can get a streak of wins together the season can transform,” he suggested. “I was watching some American football commentary over the weekend.

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“I can’t remember who it was, Dallas Cowboys, somebody like that, and they were talking about what a streaky team they were and how they are right in the playoffs because they have put a few wins together and their streaks have been good. That is what we have got to do. Our priority now is to have a good streak. If we can get a good streak together we will look good. If we have a poor streak it is going you look pretty dismal. That’s where we are at this stage of the season.”

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The Exeter pumping at Saracens didn’t make for nice viewing for Baxter, but he insisted the setback can now be a positive for his team in the long run. “We have looked at it in great detail and have talked a lot about it – actually we had a very good conversation with the players when we first got back in about it.

“The truth is you have got to learn from that scenario and the biggest lesson to learn is that you have to play as a team. There is a plan and what you input into the team has to make the team stronger. The team should always be stronger than the parts if you are a good side. Saracens showed that.

“Obviously, there were 20 internationals on the pitch. There were a lot of good players on the pitch but they played exceptionally well as a team. They knew their roles, they knew what to do and they did them very well. We, on the other hand, didn’t look like that. We made numerous individual errors around the field that just add up and add up and we weren’t quite sharp enough on the bits we had to.

“Our set-piece wasn’t good enough, that was very individual and that hurt us. And that is what we talked about – the lesson to learn there is how you forge yourself together as a team and whatever 15 ends up on the pitch, you have got to promote each other, you have got to benefit each other, you have got to make each other stronger.

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“That has always been a huge strength of ours. That has always been one of our foundation elements and that was the lesson we learned. It was important for some of the players to learn it and talk about it because that is how you move forward. They are the games where you can choose to learn most from them.

“We don’t need to sit here beating ourselves up about the result. What we do need is the positives we can take from it. When I say positives, I don’t mean how we played. You can’t look at it and find those positives in how we played. Some individual performances were good, particularly from a couple of younger guys. But the positive we take from it is what can we learn and what can we take from it to make us a better team.”

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