Baxter: Sky's the limit for champions Exeter

Sun, 28 May 2017 06:33
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REACTION: Rob Baxter has challenged his Exeter Chiefs to focus their ambitious sights on European success after the Devon side were crowned English champions for the first time on Saturday.

The Director of Rugby, tipped to succeed Eddie Jones when the England head coach decides to step down in the future, admits there is nothing the club can't achieve if they continue to dream and work hard.

Baxter and his club Chairman Tony Rowe have seen their long-term plan to sit at the top of the Premiership tree. They did so with a nail-biting, tension-packed 23-20 extra time victory over Wasps at Twickenham.

Gareth Steenson's penalty 90 seconds from the end of the game denied Wasps victory and, with the teams level 20-20, sent the clash into extra time. It was Irishman Steenson again holding his nerve to kick the winning penalty with two minutes remaining and spark wild celebrations on the field and in the stands.

And Baxter insisted: "We have let ourselves down in Europe so far but now we have to put that right.

"On the back of this success, which we will celebrate for a while, we must look to the next level. Saracens have shown what can be done and we are another English club who wants to emulate that kind of achievement.

"We have amazing people at the club and when you have everyone pulling together you can achieve anything."

Chiefs Chairman Rowe claimed: "Seven years ago when we clawed our way into the Premiership we dreamed of this scenario.

"We wanted to get to this stage where we were good enough to become English champions. But now we are here it's got to be onwards and upwards. The ambition burns bright and so does the desire to become better and more successful.

"We want to be European champions. That's the next step up, and this special day shows just what can be achieved by this club. Everyone at Sandy Park deserves this moment to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of the hard labour."

Baxter praised penalty hero Steenson.

"He leads in so many different ways, in so many different levels. He's a provider for the rest of the side. He's stayed with this club a very long time and it's great to see a player put in so much for a club and get rewarded for it," said Baxter.

Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young, whose side had finished top of the Premiership table in the normal season, choked back the disappointment of going so close to lifting the title for the first time in nine years.

Wasps have climbed back to the top of English club rugby since moving to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry from their original base sharing with Wycombe Wanders Football Club.

And Young admitted: "We've come a long way in the last year or two and we are still progressing in the right direction. It's really disappointing for the players but I am also very proud of them. There are a lot of players in there really hurting and it will take them a day or two to get over it.

"We were 90 seconds away from winning it but it wasn't to be. We have obvious strengths, but now we have to build on our weaknesses. Exeter have shown the way and shown what can be done if you keep at it and know which direction you want to go in.

"We want to become a consistent top six team now and come back here next year to try and win the trophy."

Agence France-Presse

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