Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter declared himself happy with his side’s “perfect return” as the Gallagher Premiership leaders claimed a bonus-point win over Leicester Tigers. The Chiefs extended their lead at the top of the table with a 26-13 victory over the Tigers – 161 days on from their last game because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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“It was what we were expecting – a difficult first half where everyone was trying to find their feet again and not much quality from one phase to the next,” Exeter director of rugby Baxter said. “Leicester posed us a lot of problems and it was a good workout for us. In many ways, it was the perfect return in that we got the win, but there is plenty to work on.

“At one stage we were struggling to know if we were going to win a lineout. They stopped us doing some of the things we wanted to do, but you have to be true to yourselves.”

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Former Premiership regular Alex Grove guests on The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series

Exeter took full advantage of Sale’s slip-up at Harlequins on Friday night, despite being put under early pressure by 11th-placed Leicester who led 6-0 after the first quarter. Luke Cowan-Dickie was named man-of-the-match in front of his England boss Eddie Jones, the hooker claiming one of the Chiefs’ four tries.

But Baxter revealed that England wing Jack Nowell had not been risked because of a slight hamstring injury suffered earlier in the week. “It will take a few weeks to be absolutely flying,” Baxter said. “But the important thing is we have the ability to keep winning in a number of ways.

“The set-piece was strong and we were disciplined throughout. We want to be very competitive and we just have to keep picking up points at this stage of the season.”

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Steve Borthwick was in charge of Leicester for the first time and the former England forwards coach has seemingly made his presence felt already. Leicester were a pale shadow of their former selves before the lockdown in March, but the Tigers competed throughout and finished strongly when the Chiefs might have run away with the game.

“What I’ve asked for right from the very start is the effort from the players. That was unquestionable,” Borthwick said. “We made mistakes and there are things to learn, but the effort and the attitude of the players was outstanding. We’ve got a lot of work to do because the team isn’t in the position it is in the league for no reason.”

Borthwick said the Tigers will continue to monitor Nemani Nadolo after the Fiji winger’s debut was delayed. “Nemani was delayed by the visa situation,” Borthwick said. “We’re working to recondition him to get him into a position where he’s fit and ready to go.

“We’re monitoring him on a weekly basis and he’s still a couple of weeks away. We’ll assess him again on Monday and see where he’s at, but he is progressing.”

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