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Exeter Chiefs are ready to face Europe's best

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 08, 2012

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With the champions of England vanquished over the weekend, Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter is now targeting the champions of Europe in their Heineken Cup debut this weekend.

The Devon club produced arguably the best Aviva Premiership performance since promotion in 2010 to overcome reigning title holders Harlequins, 42-18, at Sandy Park.

Baxter says their five-try approach to Saturday's match will be replicated at Dublin's Aviva Stadium against Leinster this coming weekend.

He said: "We will approach the Leinster game in a very similar manner. There is no point saying we are going to go to Leinster and just kick the ball behind them and see if we can defend for 80 minutes.

"We will play, we are a good side when we do that and I want the players to go over there and enjoy it. We'll only get better as a team and give ourselves a chance if we enjoy it for 80 minutes. That means 15 guys getting the ball in their hands and they are involved in the game.

"If we run away from the game there is no point playing, we won't improve as a side, we won't have enjoyed an intense game of Heineken Cup rugby. I don't think it is giving our game plan away to say we will go for it because that is what we tend to do."

The most pleasing element of Saturday's performance for Baxter was his side's strength of character.

They dominated much of the opening half but trailed 18-16 at half time. Indeed, crucial errors could have been costly for the home side.

A Gareth Steenson clearance was charged down, leading to one of Quins' three tries, while a Matt Jess pass was intercepted for another.

"It was a fantastic game of rugby and that is easy to say when you are on the winning end of it," said Baxter.

"It would have still been a great game, whichever way the last ten minutes went.

"You had two sides really trying to play rugby and when that happens tries are scored.

"You also make mistakes and errors and some of ours really hurt us today, and gave the game a bit of seesaw momentum.

"But if anything pleases me the most it is that we came through those changes in momentum stronger in the end.

"There was a stage, when we gave away the interception try or when we had three penalties on the bounce, when those things can hurt you and turn a game.

"We bounced through those things really well and I'm more pleased about that than anything else – the mental challenges that we came through today than the physical ones."

The result leaves Chiefs in sixth place after a tough first round of Premiership fixtures with 16 league points.

Baxter said: "We are probably slightly above what we targeted on the basis of the fixtures we had – having to go to Saints and Leicester with Harlequins at home and Saracens.

"We thought between 12 and 15 points would be a good return for us and would indicate a solid start to the season. The fact we've got 16 is good, we've got a tough block of fixtures out of the way – the top four from last season.

"I'd like to think we can now really attack the season in the way we did today. I don't think many teams would like to stand in front of us if we play like we did today. We've still got to make sure we weather the momentum changes a little bit better than we did."

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