Exeter’s ‘collective belief’ against Newcastle delights boss Rob Baxter

Rugby


Rob Baxter praised a “glued together” performance after his Exeter team saw off Newcastle to reach their third successive Aviva Premiership final.

Rugby director Baxter’s title holders will face Saracens in next Saturday’s final at Twickenham following a 36-5 playoff demolition of the Falcons.

“I am very pleased,” Baxter said. “While winning is great, the manner of our win is very pleasing.

“We knew we would have to work very hard against a team that is very resilient in defence and has a lot of collective belief.

“The way the game went, those points took some scoring. We had to have a lot of possession into the wind, work extremely hard and build our performance.”

The Chiefs never looked back after building a 16-point interval advantage through scrum-half Nic White’s try, plus three penalties and a conversion from his half-back partner Joe Simmonds.

Newcastle were never remotely allowed into the contest, having to stage a prolonged defensive rearguard as Exeter pulled further away through tries by wing Olly Woodburn and flanker Don Armand, two more penalties and another Simmonds conversion as he finished with 19 points, while Gareth Steenson added the final conversion.

Alex Tait claimed a consolation try for Newcastle, but their impressive campaign — they finished fourth in the table, reached a first league playoff and were European Challenge Cup semifinalists — ended on an afternoon when they were dominated in every key department.

Baxter added: “What we had was a performance glued together. It was glued together for longer than Newcastle managed, and that has made the difference in the scoreline.

“I said to the players that it may not feel like it sometimes, but I don’t feel like I have watched us play a game when we have had so much control for such a long period.

“I did the defensive review at half time and there was not a lot to talk about.

“I asked them ‘what’s the best thing about our defence?’ and they said ‘we have not had to do anything,’ which was exactly right. We kept the ball, and if you keep the ball it is the best way to defend.”

This season’s Premiership final will be a repeat of the 2016 title showdown — Saracens beat Exeter 28-20 on that occasion — and will see England’s top two teams following the 22-game regular season going head to head.

If Exeter win they will become only the third club after Leicester, Wasps and Saracens to successfully defend Premiership silverware in the competition’s 20-year history.

Reflecting on the result, Falcons rugby director Dean Richards said: “We made some uncharacteristic errors.

“The boys did not freeze on the day, they just did not capitalise on what opportunities they had.

“We talked about their possession in the first half, but it came about by us losing a couple of lineouts, losing a scrum and turning over the ball. If you get all those bits right, then that gives us a chance.”



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