VIDEO: No training, no problem for Exeter
REACTION: Exeter’s Director of Rugby Rob Baxter hailed his players’ gritty 28-20 win against Gloucester after the English Premiership champions were unable to train together for a fortnight.
A COVID-19 outbreak in Baxter’s squad forced the cancellation of their European Champions Cup clash with Toulouse last weekend and disrupted Exeter’s return to domestic action.
The COVID-19 issue was brought under control through the use of additional rounds of testing and self-isolation, but it also prevented the double winners from training.
Inspired by Sam and Joe Simmonds, their response was to overcome a shaky opening and post a fourth successive bonus-point victory that equals the record for the best start to the season held by Saracens.
“It wasn’t an amazing game of rugby and it was never going to be,” Baxter said.
“The squad that played had not trained together for two weeks.
“I don’t think we had an energy 80-minute performance in us, so the character we showed pulled us through.
“Some of those lads had virtually no time on the training field in two weeks and yet we scored four tries against another Premiership side.
“Some of the players out there were involved in the COVID scenario a week or so ago and they pulled themselves together and won a game of rugby.”
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Bristol Director of Rugby Pat Lam revealed a stern half-time talk inspired their 27-19 win at Harlequins.
Lam’s side initially struggled in the first half as their attacking game failed to click.
All that changed after Lam’s blast as Bristol bagged a try bonus point with their captain Steven Luatua and scrumhalf Harry Randall leading the charge.
“I just opened the door that went out to the bus and said: ‘There are two doors you can choose’,” Lam said.
“[I said:] ‘If you’re going to continue playing like that, not as the Bears but just play as individuals, then just step on to the bus.
“‘But if you want to go back out there, go back out there and play as the Bears’, because we were woeful for the first 40 minutes.”
Northampton side ended their winless start to the season with a 29-10 success against Worcester at Franklin’s Gardens.
Alex Mitchell, Dan Biggar and Mike Haywood all scored tries in Northampton’s first home Premiership victory in 2020.