Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter highlighted “the new dynamic” of the Heineken Champions Cup’s two-legged Round of 16 as he looked forward to a tie with double winners Munster Rugby.
Previously knockout games in Europe’s premier club competition have been one-off affairs, but that all changes in April, when the 2020 winners entertain Munster before travelling to Ireland, following their 37-26 defeat at Montpellier Hérault Rugby last Sunday.
“We’re going to be at home first, so it’s going to be an interesting pair of games for us,” Baxter told the club website
“We knew we weren’t going to get into the top two, so seedings were going to be difficult. We couldn’t not qualify, so it created a funny game in a way. Montpellier had everything to gain and we could have done with two points to move us up.
“What it does do is it changes the next round for us. Munster away – our supporters and our players are going to love that – and in a double-legged knockout experience, which will add a new dynamic to it for both sides.
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“At the same time, nothing has really changed. We are going into the same scenario as everyone else in terms of a home and away play-off, so we have the same opportunity as everyone else to get into the quarter-finals. We just have to make the most of them.”
As for his side’s performance against Montpellier, Baxter was “a little disappointed”, after Exeter had rallied from 24-5 down to lead 26-24, only to concede 13 points in the final 14 minutes.
“We started brightly with that early try, but we didn’t pull ourselves together,” he said. “We looked a little bit over-enthusiastic to get the ball from edge to edge. If anything, we were slinging the ball around a fair bit for little reward.
“What we should have been prepared to do was go through phase play, because that was always going to be the killer for us today.
“We knew if we could get through the phases, we were always going to score points. That’s kind of what we grew into. We started to get some reward – but then we went a little off script again as the game went on and we made some errors, which proved costly in the end.”