Rob Baxter did not mince his words when addressing the Exeter Chiefs forwards after his side’s 16th Gallagher Premiership victory of the season against Harlequins.


Two tries in 11 minutes, from centre Ollie Devoto and scrum-half Nic White, with another early in the second half from prop Harry Williams, one converted by fly-half Joe Simmonds, saw Exeter edge a 17-15 win.

Quins had the vast majority of the territory and possession and their rewards were two tries in four second-half minutes from scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and wing Charlie Walker, one converted by fly-half Marcus Smith who also landed a first-half penalty.

Exeter secured their place in the end-of-season play-off semi-finals a month ago and are on course to finish the regular season on top of the table.

But Baxter thinks the forwards have taken their eye off the ball as their display in the scrummage and loose situations against Quins showed.

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He said: “I have just given it to the forwards in the changing rooms despite the win. That is very odd because I say every week how precious Premiership points are and how hard they are to come by.

“We did some things right but I told them this is an Exeter Chiefs pack of forwards, playing at Sandy Park and we have ended up being yellow-carded for scrum offences, we did not get our maul at any stage looking dominant and it looks like we have been pushed around a bit.

“I have said you are going to have to get your heads down over the next few weeks because we cannot just manage our way through a few games because we know there is a semi-final.

“At this stage of the season, we have won the big prize and it has created an almost little emotion vacuum. They are not quite sure where they need to be.


“I have said to the players they are human and I get it. There is this big game coming up and you are thinking about it.

“That little bit of killer togetherness that sees dominant results coming is not there at the moment. It is right under the surface but what I am worried about is we expect it to come in the week of the semi-final and the players are just looking around saying ‘where is it?’

“I have challenged the players in the changing rooms to snap out of it. It is not good enough.”

Harlequins, who are fighting for their play-off lives, were outstanding and Smith could have won the game in the dying minutes but pushed a 35-metre penalty wide amid the wind.

Quins head of rugby Paul Gustard was pleased with the performance, saying: “We came with a game-plan to win but the first 10 minutes didn’t go our way. After that, we were the dominant team.

“We controlled the end of the second half and wanted to get seven points to get into the game. We elected to kick into the game at the end to win it and we didn’t.

“For me, this team lost 50-15 I think to this team last season and we are now coming down to their home and losing 17-15. So if they are the best team in the country by a yard – which they are – we are not far behind.”

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