Press Notes | Exeter Chiefs | Gallagher Premiership | R12

3 March 2021

Head Coach Neal Hatley spoke to media this afternoon (Wednesday) as Bath Rugby prepare to welcome defending champions Exeter Chiefs to the Rec.

The Blue, Black and White are in fine spirits following a thrilling comeback win against Northampton Saints in Round 11.

On three wins in a row…

If you win three in a row it’s always a good place to be. I think it’s baby steps where we’re pleased with some of the progress we’ve made but there’s lots of areas to improve on.

I thought the win at Sale was an exceptional win, the win at Gloucester was exceptionally ugly and the win at Northampton was an ugly first 25 minutes. But there was really good resilience from the team and I was pleased with the character shown to come back and get the win, especially with some of those moments from Ben Spencer at the backend in both corners and how we fought to get out of those corners after the Naiyaravoro break. Then with Proctor’s break, Benny’s held him up over the line and we’ve forced the scrum penalty and seen the game out.

We’re heading in the right direction.

On having an experienced bench vs Saints…

Probably the thinking was some of the guys had earned an opportunity. Chuds has come on and done well, Jack Walker has been going well and I think for us when we looked at the games, I think Tom Dunn made 34 tackles in the Sale game so we can’t just keep pushing the same people out.

Unfortunately, in some positions – in our back five really - boys are having to go week after week. When we went there (Northampton) last time post-lockdown on a four or five-day turnaround and we loaded the bench up as we thought if we were in the game with 25 minutes to go we could put players on. So it was a similar sort of plan but it was also a necessitated by the workload that some of the other boys had had so we lightened their week going into Northampton and then asked them to bring lots of energy from the bench which I thought everybody did.

On ending the Saints game in strong fashion…

I thought we were exceptionally clear at half-time. We got the score from Merce and in previous weeks we haven’t been as patient when we’ve got five or six metres out so I thought we showed a lot more patience.

The whole way we stuck with what we talked about which was probably the most impressive thing because sometimes at 19-3 you can start to panic and try to change a few things. We said we had 40 minutes of rugby to go which is a lifetime really; Mercer’s score just before half-time was off the back of us trying to turn their back three and then leading into that we said we just needed to chip away and the pressure then reverted back on to them.

We didn’t try and play in the wrong areas, we played when it was right to play. Rhys did exceptionally well; his goal-kicking at the moment is metronomic. Anything from 40-50 metres out then people are going to pay so it’s handy having a weapon like that. Then to have the resilience to finish the game off under the pump and turn it around in that corner was great.

On teams kicking to the corner rather than at goal…

People are just backing their power. Exeter sort of started the trend. It’s been pretty windy and miserable over the past few weeks so sides have backed their line-out. For us, we ask the players to think about the momentum. If you generate a lot of momentum, and you have someone down there for six, seven, eight minutes, by taking a shot at goal does that let them out? There’s a chance to keep squeezing them, keep squeezing them and potentially come away with seven.

On tough meetings with Exeter…

Our set-piece didn’t function first time at their place and our set-piece has been a lot better. We’re hopefully getting a few players back on that this week, people like Josh McNally, guys like that, so we’ll wait to see how everyone turns up tomorrow. You look at them, they are European champions, double champions so they are a good team and they are a side who if you doze off will punish you. There are no scars (from previous meetings), it’s the next game; I know it sounds extremely cliché but it really is just the next game.

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