Baxter: ‘Credit to the players’

Rob Baxter was full of praise for the attitude and preparation shown by his side ahead of their Premiership victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate on Friday night.

With just an hour between the two cities, the Chiefs – who for most games travel the day before – made the short trek up the M5 on the day to lock horns with their nearest and dearest.

In the first competitive meeting between the two for six years, a powerful first half display from Baxter’s side ensured they not only made it back-to-back wins in the top flight, but collected another maximum haul to lift them to fourth in the standings after four rounds.

Winger Olly Woodburn helped himself to a first half brace of tries, while free-scoring number eight Thomas Waldrom followed him over the whitewash as Devon’s finest established a 24-5 lead at the break.

Waldrom secured the all-important bonus point inside two minutes of the restart, before Bristol rallied with a second half burst that created tries from Ross McMillan and Max Crumpton to go alongside Jordan Williams’ first half score.

The final word, however, belonged to the visitors who wrapped up their win when centre Sam Hill (pictured) crossed late on for his first try of the season.

For Baxter, it was another decent enough night at the office for him and his players, who will now use the weekend to rest up sufficiently before they embark on preparing for next Friday’s trip to Northampton Saints.

Chiefs head coach said: "Credit to the players today, it’s not often you travel on the day of the game and you always worry if you will be 100 per cent focused, but they got the As and the Bs in the right order and they travelled here in good order.

"The atmosphere and prep in the hotel beforehand was first class and it carried on from there. The way they warmed up, inside the changing room, it was all there and that allowed us to get out of the blocks quickly and with some quality.

"For me that was the really pleasing aspect of tonight, simply because we went one job at a time in the first half."

He added: "Obviously we got the five-point win and that’s the most you can get out of a game, plus we denied the opposition anything, which is fantastic, but for me personally I would rather have scored one less try and conceded one less try.

"If we had stuck them at ten points I would have been very happy, but to concede the points as we did, where we looked loose and a bit scrappy, it just felt a bit soft for me. I would like to see us create a real hard underbelly in those situations and that’s what I will really push the guys on when we meet up again on Monday."

By half time the Chiefs were already well in command and Baxter admitted it can be hard to continue stamping your authority on things for the full 80 minutes.

He went on: "When you get a lead like we did, it’s difficult to keep that intensity you need to smash in more and more points. To be fair to the players to put that much energy onto the pitch like we did, there will be changes in tempo and moments where things fade. That doesn’t kind of suit us, we like it to be high tempo where the game keeps moving and we are able to push ourselves.

"I can understand how it ebbs and flows and of course you have to give Bristol credit because they had their moments in the game when they put us under a bit of pressure. Overall, though, because the game didn’t finish fantastic for us, we actually went in at the end feeling a bit deflated.

"However, I just said to the guys we’ve won a Premiership game of rugby, got five points, so we should be cherishing that. Yes, we can work on things, but I said to them get your chest out, strut about a bit and say ‘well done’ and we’ll look to move on again on Monday."