Steenson seeks turnaround

Mon, 11 Feb 2013 19:16
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Gareth Steenson insists the hard work has already started as Exeter Chiefs look to banish the disappointment of Friday's defeat to Sale.

Gareth Steenson insists the hard work has already started as Exeter Chiefs quickly look to banish the disappointment of Friday's Premiership defeat to lowly Sale Sharks.

Seemingly in control at 16-5 up early in the second half thanks to 11 points from Steenson and a try from Fijian newcomer Watisoni Votu, the Chiefs then appeared to implode as they allowed the Sharks to fight their way back into the contest, eventually undoing their Devon rivals 21-16 to claim only their third top flight win of the season.

It was indeed a disappointing outcome for Rob Baxter's side, who despite dominating the first half at the Salford City Stadium, have now failed to win in their last four Premiership fixtures.

Assessing the game, fly-half Steenson said: "We created chances in the first half, which was great. That is what we are trying to do, but it is just our finishing [that is a problem].

“We didn't take our opportunities, but we always felt like things were going well. Watisoni getting a try for us was good, but there were a couple of chances in the corner which didn't go our way, which was very disappointing, and if you take chances like that, it might be a different result."

In a dominant first half the Chiefs led 13-5 at the break, but it could easily have been more had a number of clear-cut chances been taken by the visitors.

And Steenson admits it is those chances that need to be taken if the Devonians are to propel themselves back up the table and amongst the top six, which guarantees a place in next season's European Cup.

"We are creating the chances, which are fantastic, and we are getting into the right areas of the pitch, and it has got to click at some point," said the Dungannon-born back. "We just have to be confident and stick with what we are doing, and keep working hard, and hopefully it will come.

"You saw 40 minutes of good rugby from us, and then 40 minutes of basically destructive rugby, there is no other way I can put it. It is very disappointing how we played that second half.

“We talked at half-time about doing specific things, and we went out and did the exact opposite. Credit to Sale, they came out and threw everything at us, but I think we just didn't perform in that second half."

Scrapping for their Premiership existence, the Sharks duly produced a powerful second-half showing that included a record-breaking score for wing Mark Cueto.

The England international touched down just before the hour mark to claim his 76th try in the Premiership, a feat which saw him finally edge ahead of Steve Hanley, another famous son of Sale's past.

Steenson continued: "The fight was there from Sale and they gave it their best shot and came away with the right result, which is fair play to them. They are going to have to work really hard and get a home run going [to stay up]. They are a hard, physical team, they always are, and we will see how they go for the rest of the season."

Already a detailed debrief has been instigated within the confines of Sandy Park and the Chiefs will use this coming week to get themselves back on track for what will be another tough away assignment against Saracens, who themselves are licking their wounds following a weekend defeat to London Irish.

Saturday's meeting will mark the first ever Premiership fixture played on the new 4G surface at the Allianz Park and 28-year-old Steenson is looking forward to the occasion.

"The surface at Sale was as good a surface as you will play on," he said. "I haven't a clue what the surface at Saracens is going to be like, but it is made to provide an entertaining, running game.

“It is going to be a big challenge going up there. We will look at what we did wrong last Friday, see what we did well, and work hard and get ready for Saracens and give it everything we have got."

And although defeated last time out, Steenson insists the mood within the Exeter camp remains positive as they look to move forward.

"We went up to Sale and came away with a point, so it is not all doom and gloom," he said. "Winning away in the Premiership is not easy, especially against a side fighting for their lives.

“We have just got to get the balance right. We want to be ambitious, we want to play European Cup rugby again next season, and we have just got to push that forward."

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