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Baxter blames poor discipline for loss to Quins

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Article Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter said poor indiscipline had contributed to his side's downfall in their final Aviva Premiership game of 2011 against visiting Harlequins at Sandy Park.

The table-topping Londoners emerged 11-9 victors in front of a sell-out crowd in Devon after fly-half Rory Clegg landed a late penalty to ensure them of their 11th league win of the season.

Even then Baxter's side could have snatched a dramatic, last-gasp success had replacement Gareth Steenson plundered a drop-goal chance with just 90 seconds remaining on the clock.

In the end, the Irishman's attempted effort drifted wide of the mark and the visitors duly saw out the dying embers of the contest to ensure they remained at the Premiership summit heading into the New Year.

Afterwards a frustrated Baxter gave his take on the game, he said: "I can't really stand here now and say we deserved to win the game because the truth of the matter is you can't expect an opposition goalkicker in the Premiership to miss that many kicks at goal."

"That said, we showed our usual grit and determination and worked hard to conjure up a match-winning opportunity late in the game, so it had a bit of everything.

"If I'm honest, I am little disappointed with our discipline. We are not normally a side that tends to go in the side of breakdowns and cough up soft penalties, instead we pride ourselves on making teams work very hard for their points.

"From what I saw the majority of them were pretty clear penalties, so in that respect you have to hold your hands up and say there was perhaps a little bit too much indiscipline on our part and that is something we need to get better at."

Having trailed to an early Danny Care try, the Chiefs hit back courtesy of two Ignacio Mieres penalties to lead 6-5 just moments before the break. However, Clegg - who endured a torrid day with the boot, missing five of his seven kicks at the target, struck with the very last action of the half to give his side an 8-6 lead.

In the second period, the game remained just as tight and when Steenson fired the home side back in front late on, it appeared the points could be going the way of Baxter's braves.

However, with just three minutes remaining, a deliberate knock-on by winger Matt Jess gave Clegg a final shot at the target and this time the Harlequins marksman made no mistake, drilling a sublime kick between the upright.

It proved a significant blow as even though the Chiefs threatened with Steenson's late chance, Conor O'Shea's man had done enough to claim a vital victory in the Westcountry.

Afterwards, Baxter paid tribute to the opposition stating: "You have to remember they are the current Premiership leaders and they have something special about them. "

"They have been to Toulouse this season and won a game of rugby and now they've come to Exeter and won a game of rugby. It was tough out there for them today and we have nearly come through, but as I've said already I don't think you can ultimately say you can give a Premiership goalkicker as many opportunities as we did and expect to win.

"It's great that we have collected a losing bonus point and we were in the game right until the last two or three minutes, but can we really say we had a steel and determination about us to force a victory? Personally, I don't know. "

"I am pleased with our endeavour and that we were in at the end with a chance to win the game, but I am disappointed with elements of our play and we have to address that.

"I know where some of the penalties we conceded came from are probably down to a little bit of over hype with guys keen to prove a point, but the truth of it is I don't think I can stand here, hand on my heart, and say we should have won the game. "

"I will take the losing bonus point, but we will now have to go away and address a few things and prepare for what is going to be a massive game at Newcastle next week.

"And as I just said to the guys in the changing rooms, we had the chance to shoot upwards today and look at the stars and did we want that enough? The test next week when we go to Newcastle is do we want to stay out of that bottom zone of the Premiership enough? That will be the next test for us."

O'Shea, meanwhile, praised Clegg's "bottle" after the fly-half landed his late penalty.

He said: "Rory Clegg showed incredible bottle and you have to separate things with a fly-half - his general play bar one or two touch kicks, the way that he marshalled the team and got a pattern going was magnificent.

"He is an 80%-plus goal kicker - he wasn't today, you have those days. His fault will be that he took on two early kicks into a diagonal breeze which he probably shouldn't have, but he showed incredible bottle to land a really difficult kick."

And Irishman O'Shea was quick to praise the character of his team as they bounced back from their first league loss of the season against defending champions Saracens in front of 82,000 spectators at Twickenham.

O'Shea said: "Four days after our last game, I thought we played with incredible ambition, some good line breaks and off-loading, and I thought that we should have won the game quite comfortably.

"But Exeter stayed in the game and we knew they would looking at their record of coming back in the second half - look what they did against Sale and the Dragons - but I thought we played some magnificent rugby.

"But I credit the guys; to give away a penalty to put them into the lead with six minutes to go (and come back), these are the wins. This is a tough place to come; I was not expecting it to be easy and it wasn't."

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LV= Cup Pool 1

Saracens 2 2 0 0 46 29 0 8
Dragons 2 1 0 1 72 66 1 5
Bath Rugby
2 1 0 1 53 25 1 5
Gloucester Rugby 2 1 0 1 45 37 1 5

LV= Cup Pool 2

Northampton Saints 2 2 0 0 61 30 1 9
Cardiff Blues 2 2 0 0 41 34 0 8
Sale Sharks 2 1 0 1 45 58 1 5
London Irish 2 0 0 2 38 60 1 1

LV= Cup Pool 3

Leicester Tigers 2 2 0 0 46 29 1 9
Wasps 2 1 0 1 72 54 3 7
Newcastle Falcons 2 0 0 2 44 59 1 1
Scarlets 2 0 0 2 20 43 1 1

LV= Cup Pool 4

Exeter Chiefs 2 1 0 0 28 27 0 8
Harlequins 2 0 0 1 20 25 1 5
Ospreys 2 0 0 2 44 72 1 1
London Welsh 2 0 0 2 16 65 0 0
Note : Pool 1 plays Pool 4 and Pool 2 plays Pool 3.