Exeter Chiefs captain Dean Mumm pin-pointed his side’s failure to take their try-scoring chances as the reason for their 32-20 defeat at European champions Toulon on Saturday.
The Chiefs put in another brave effort against the star-studded French side, after their 14-9 loss at Sandy Park the previous weekend.
However, as in that Heineken Cup game, and against Saracens and Bath in their previous two Premiership encounters, Rob Baxter’s men did not make the most of some of the line breaks their talented players made.
“I’m extremely proud of the boys. It is a good effort to go to Toulon and be in touch with 20 minutes to go,” said former Australia lock Mumm. “I thought that, if we could do that, the pressure would mount on Toulon as there was an expectation for them to get five points out of the game.
“As it was, they did manage that, but I think the difference was they finished every opportunity they made, and whereas we traded a certain number of opportunities, we just didn’t finish some of them, and that is a really key learn for us coming out of the game.
“Over the last three or four weeks, we have learned as a team the importance of taking your opportunities.
“We had chances and you have got to take them all the time, because when you play these top games, it really is a fine margin between winning and losing, and a lot of that comes down to capitalising on every chance you get.”
However, the inspirational skipper admitted that the experiences of the past couple of weeks in the Heineken Cup would have done the young lads in the Exeter squad the world of good in terms of their development. “For the boys, and particularly the younger guys, playing Toulon home and away is as close as you can get in club rugby to playing Test rugby,” said the 29-year-old.
“They have shown they are more than capable of it in these matches, and it is a huge learn for us, and I suppose the challenge going forward for us now is to maintain the intensity level we have played at in recent weeks, because if we can do that, it will set us up well in the Premiership.”
Exeter have been playing some great rugby, but the stark statistics will tell you they have lost their last five games in all competitions as they head into next weekend’s Premiership home match against Newcastle, and Mumm views that contest as a potential banana skin.
“In some ways, it is a high-risk game for us,” explained Mumm. “There is a great incentive to play against the top teams and it is easy to get yourself up for it, but, no disrespect to Newcastle, they have come up from the Championship, and we have to play them with a shorter turnaround, so that is a real challenge for us, to keep backing ourselves and maintain the intensity level we have played at.”
Mumm had nothing but admiration for around 1,000 Exeter fans who made the journey to the south of France to cheer on the team, and provided a very special atmosphere inside Stade Mayol.
“I don’t know if they meant to do it, but they placed themselves quite well around the pitch, so there were bunches of Chiefs supporters doing the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ in plenty of areas of the ground,” Mumm added.
“You couldn’t ask much more from them really as a group of supporters. To have so many people get excited and come over and support us, it’s a real treat to play in front of that.
“It was a real treat to play in front of the whole crowd, and to hear the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ was pretty unique.”