Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter insists the “machine is purring again” after his side opened their European Champions Cup campaign with a 31-12 bonus point victory at La Rochelle.
The Chiefs scored tries through Dave Dennis, Tom O’Flaherty, Henry Slade and Sam Simmonds with Joe Simmonds kicking 11 points. The hosts crossed courtesy of Geoffrey Doumayrou and Kini Murimurivalu with Brock James kicking a conversion.
And Baxter believes this result can inject some momentum back into their season after last weekend’s home defeat to Bristol.
“You saw the real Exeter stand up today,” said Baxter. “We’ve been building up to this game and we stood up strongly today. For me it’s extremely satisfying having seen all the hard work our boys have put in.
What a try for @ExeterChiefs ?
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“It’s the first time we’ve been at our best this season. We worked extremely hard in pre-season but we hadn’t seen the evidence of that until now.
“I thought we were the better side and thoroughly deserved the victory. We were very clinical and it’s as if the machine is back and purring.
“We’ve talked a lot about it over the past few weeks about how we get the machine back purring. Everybody has played their part.”
Exeter took a 14-0 lead into half-time with Dennis powering over from short-range before O’Flaherty scored a cracker with a brilliant finish.
La Rochelle turned down a further two penalties as they tried desperately to cut the deficit but some strong Exeter defence kept the French side at bay which meant the Chiefs led at the interval.
The hosts claimed their first try early in the second half with a well-executed cross kick from Ihaia West brilliantly taken by Vincent Rattez. Right-wing Rattez managed to keep the ball in play before offloading to Doumayrou to score.
With the hosts on the front foot Jeremy Sinzelle’s pass was intercepted by Slade who ran in unopposed from 45 metres out.
Joe Simmonds, who has not missed a shot at goal this season, converted and Exeter led 21-5 going into the final quarter of the game.
Exeter were now in complete control and sealed the try bonus point with powerful number eight Sam Simmonds brushing aside three defenders to touch down from short range.
There was to be no let up for the hosts with Joe Simmonds knocking over a straightforward penalty from right out in front of the posts. But La Rochelle had the last say with Murimurivalu gathering a cross kick to score.
Baxter said: “We’ve been growing as a side and this is something we’ve been working towards for years. To come away from home and get a result against a great French side like this is a huge step forward for us.
“We are in a good position now after getting five points away from home and we are looking forward to facing Glasgow next week.”
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