Disappointed Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter blamed his side for making a series of “dumb” errors as they Exeter forward Tom Johnson is confident the Chiefs will rediscover their ‘bite’ when they run out for this Saturday’s Westcountry derby with Bath in the Aviva Premiership.
Back to back defeats against London Irish (39-17) and Leeds Carnegie (27-22) have seen Rob Baxter’s side falter in recent weeks, but Johnson is confident the league’s newest additions can put things right when they make the short trek to the Recreation Ground.
In what will be the Devon club’s third away day on the trot, the Chiefs will not only look to halt their recent run of setbacks, but at the same time look to gain their revenge against a Bath side who edged home 12-9 in the corresponding fixture at Sandy Park in late February.
Johnson admits the recent losses at Irish and Leeds have been “hugely disappointing” – particularly after the club had enjoyed an impressive sequence of results prior to the recent two-week break in action – but knows a win at Bath this weekend could once more re-ignite the club’s season as they enter into the final straight.
“The boys are disappointed, it’s the second game on the bounce we haven’t played for 80 minutes,” he said. “We said at the start of the season we would always play for 80 and we’re not doing that at the moment.
“We’ve got to hold our hands up, it’s individual mistakes, but the boys will address that when we meet back up and then we’ll crack on and get ready for Bath. We don’t feel too far away from where we want to be, we’re not quite where we were a couple of months ago – we need to get that bite back in us – and we’ll address that this week.”
Certainly Exeter’s head coach Rob Baxter has promised to dissect the past fortnight – both individually and collectively – and look to get his team back on track. Indeed, in the aftermath of Sunday’s loss at Headingley, Baxter admitted “dumb errors” had cost his team the opportunity of recording a league double over the league’s basement club.
“We were gutted after the game, we went up there to do a job and Leeds turned it around,” added Johnson, who is Exeter’s leading try-scorer this season with six touchdowns. “Fair play to them, they stood up and did a job on us.
“We got back in the game and we did the same the previous week, we got back within a point at Irish, but the last 20 minutes are hurting us at the moment. It’s not fitness, we’re just doing a few silly things away from the game plan and it’s costing us.”
Having tasted defeat once already to Bath, Johnson believes the Chiefs can rediscover their winning formula against one of the household names within the English game.
“It’s a local derby. It was a tight encounter at Sandy Park and we’ve got to go up there and try to put our game on Bath.”
Like the Chiefs, Bath will head into this latest match-up on the back of another defeat themselves after they crashed 20-9 to Saracens at Vicarage Road on Sunday.
However, Director of Rugby Sir Ian McGeechan is adamant his side are still within striking distance of the Premiership play-offs, despite slumping to a third defeat in a row at Saracens.
“We’ve five games to go and there’s a lot of points on offer,” said McGeechan, whose side are 13 points adrift of fourth spot. “There’ll be points lost elsewhere so I’m still looking at that fourth spot and making sure we’re thereabouts.
“We’re defending well and that’s the best part of our game. We need to look hard at our attack. We should be more of a threat than we are. It’s not rocket science. If you hang on to the ball you’ll score the points, whether it’s penalties or tries.
“If you don’t hang on to the ball you’re just giving your opponents easy opportunities to have it back and be the threat. We have to keep working at becoming tough when we keep it, because we’re tough when we don’t have it.”