Aviva Premiership: Rob Baxter ‘very pleased’ with Chiefs progress

Aviva Premiership: Rob Baxter "very pleased" with Exeter Chiefs after a 24-17 victory over Cardiff Blues

Rob Baxter declared himself “very pleased” after watching his Exeter Chiefs side record a notable 24-17 victory over Cardiff in their first pre-season fixture at the Cardiff Arms Park on Friday night.

First-half tries from Jack Arnott, Will Chudley and Sam Simmonds, coupled with nine points from the boot of fly-half Gareth Steenson, proved sufficient enough for the Aviva Premiership club to overcome the Welsh region, who countered with tries of their own from George Watkins, Chris Dicomidis and Ellis Jenkins.

Overall, though, I was very pleased with our performance and the scoreline only really gets tilted with a couple of late scores

Rob Baxter

Two of Cardiff’s scores came in the final minutes of the game and allowed the Blues to glean a more creditable look from a contest in which they were often playing second best.

That said, Baxter insisted it was a good night’s work from his squad, which included game time for all eight of his summer signings.

Baxter said: “To come away against any kind of top flight side and get a victory is always a good result for us. Sitting here right now I’m a little frustrated with the fractured nature of the second half, but at the same time I was really pleased with our first half performance.

“I thought the first half was a very rounded performance in terms of attack, defence and set-piece, obviously the second half was more fractured, but there were a few reasons for that. I’ve just said to the guys it was always going to be more difficult in the second half because you don’t get that warm-up or proper run in to the game that the guys who started the game did.

“Also, Cardiff didn’t make too many changes at the break, so they were still relatively hot in terms of the game – and I understand the frustrations due to some of the interpretations from the referee at scrum time, so that’s something we have a look at. Overall, though, I was very pleased with our performance and the scoreline only really gets tilted with a couple of late scores.”

The Chiefs were given a dream start in the Welsh capital as they opened their scoring inside 75 seconds as winger Arnott rounded off a slick attacking move. Then Chudley followed him over the whitewash shortly after when he snuck down the blindside before Academy product Simmonds capped a fine first half for the visitors when he was driven over from a line-out move.

They were the highlights of an accomplished display from the Devonians, who this Friday will take Irish outfit Ulster Rugby at the Kingspan Stadium..

“There were some fantastic elements to our play at times tonight,” added Baxter. “Like I always say about this group, we can very rarely ever fault their endeavour and the one thing we ask of them all the time is to make sure the things that don’t require talent, like hard work, were there.

“From the outset it was there and as the game progressed we were able to show the talent and skill that we have, together with some pretty good defence, so the foundations are there for us to work with over the remainder of pre-season and hopefully we can fine tune one or two things to take into the start of the Premiership.”

With Sandy Park currently undergoing a massive, multi-million pound redevelopment, the Chiefs have been forced to play all their pre-season fixtures on the road this year. However, Baxter believes the experiences will serve his side well heading into their opening game of the season at London Welsh on September 7.

Baxter continued: “There is one thing you always say as a rugby coach, when you win away against a top flight side – which the Blues are – it’s a decent win. For us, tonight is where it all starts for us and because we’ve got a few away games in pre-season, I think it will set us up nicely for the new season.

“We are aware as we get closer to the season that things will crank up, so we’ve got a few more tough weeks and then hopefully we’ll be as ready as we can be for that first game.”

Certainly Baxter will be encouraged by the way his players went about their job against the Blues, particularly the displays of his eight newcomers, all of whom were given the chance to impress.

“As I’ve said before the guys we bring in are players we feel will bring something to areas that we need to improve,” said Baxter. “We don’t tend to go out and get players just for the sake of it, we want guys who will add something and be the right fit for us. We’re pretty comfortable with things right now and today’s performance makes me a lot happier about the whole make-up of the squad.”

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