Rob Baxter believes Exeter were not at their best in 40-6 win over Leicester

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Exeter’s Rob Baxter believed his team were not at their best in their Gallagher Premiership opener, despite a 40-6 success.

The Chiefs’ director of rugby said: “We still scored 40 points but we can do better as we left a few tries out there.

“We spurned a couple of chances but kept going and were rewarded in the end.”

Exeter still managed six tries through Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Henry Slade, Matt Kvesic, Ian Whitten and Olly Woodburn, with Gareth Steenson converting five.

Baxter was full of praise for Simmonds and Kvesic, who rivalled each other for the man of the match award.

He continued: “Matt is back to his best even before his Gloucester days. We wanted to sign him when he was at Worcester but couldn’t do so.

“He concentrated too much on the breakdown at Gloucester and forgot his attacking skills but he now looks hungry like a man who has been deprived of food.

“He and Sam gave us targets today; they were a fantastic combination and took some handling on a firm pitch.”

On the final scoreline, Baxter said: “The first half was very tough and it will be a very difficult game at Welford Road when they have had more game time.

“Our players had to work very hard but eventually it paid dividends with two or three tries coming rather easily at the end when they had little to fight for.”

It ended up as another heavy defeat for Tigers at Sandy Park, following on from 31-10 and 30-6 defeats on their last two visits.

This latest setback will raise concern in Leicester’s camp as they fielded virtually a full-strength side but could only manage two penalties from George Ford.

Director of Rugby Matt O’Connor, said: “The first 25 minutes were tasty but it took its toll upon us as they made it count.

“We couldn’t get any field position and it showed that some of our players lacked 40 or 60 minutes of game-time.

“We had a couple of niggles to key players in pre-season and couldn’t risk them but we are still disappointed that we gave away a lot of points at the back end as the game was closer than the final score would suggest.”

Next up for Leicester is a home game against Newcastle, which will have a major impact on whether Tigers recover from this mauling to have a decent season.
O’Connor added: “It’s an enormous game as they deprived us of a European spot at the end of last season.

“There’s a lot to play for but we have to make sure that we are better.”

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Pat Lam proud after Bristol Bears make stunning return to Premiership Rugby

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Bristol boss Pat Lam reflected on “a magic occasion” after his team made a dream return to the Gallagher Premiership.

Fly-half Ian Madigan’s four penalties and a late Alapati Leiua try saw Bristol home 17-10 against west country rivals Bath, with a 26,000 crowd – Bristol’s biggest home attendance – roaring them to victory.

“I am extremely proud of the guys,” head coach Lam said. “It has been a big day for the club.

“The thing about the Premiership is that we are going to be under a lot of pressure and spend time without the ball, and we had to dig deep as a team.

“We now go to Saracens next, the defending champions away. There are a few niggles, and it will be a different team next week because we have got to use our squad.

“It was a magic occasion tonight to kick off a wonderful competition.

“It’s nice to be back, and it was a good start for us, but we get back to work on Monday.”

Bath fought back from nine points adrift to lead when full-back Tom Homer scored a second-half try and Rhys Priestland kicked a conversion and penalty.

But the visitors were ultimately punished for a terrible 15th-minute blunder when an unmarked Homer remarkably failed to ground the ball after crossing Bristol’s line.

Bristol, last season’s Championship winners, were indebted to huge performances from the likes of skipper Steven Luatua and lock Chris Vui, while Madigan missed just one kick off the tee, keeping his composure amid intense pressure.

Lam heaped praise on Luatua, adding: “I’ve known Steven since he was 16. He is class.

“One of the reasons I gave him the captaincy is because each time he has captained the team, it’s his best rugby. He feels that extra responsibility.

“There are good leaders around him, and he is just going to go from strength to strength.”

Bath's Todd Blackadder and Bristol coach Pat Lam.

Bath’s Todd Blackadder and Bristol coach Pat Lam.

Reflecting on the Homer howler, Bath Rugby director Todd Blackadder said: “It’s simply making sure of those things. You don’t leave them to chance. It (try) wasn’t awarded, so it doesn’t really matter.

“The points were there for us tonight, but we just didn’t capitalise. It was one of those ones we let slip through our fingers.

“The annoying thing was the inconsistency of some of our actions. Some were brilliant, and some weren’t, and often in a dog-fight like tonight that can be the difference.

“Our ball into contact was really poor – we turned over far too much ball. When we did build a bit of pressure I felt we had them on the back foot, but we didn’t do it enough.”

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Top 10 Premiership signings including Charles Piutau and Lima Sopoaga

Alex Broun 31/08/2018
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Charles Piutau in action for Ulster

The Premiership has rolled out the stars for the 2018-19 season with a glittering array of talent trucked in from all over the globe.

From All Blacks to Red Dragons, vintage Wallabies to hardened Springboks the twelve clubs have reached deep in their pockets to give themselves the best chance of glory come the pointy end.

As the season kicks off here’s our top ten signings.

CHARLES PIUTAU (Ulster to Bristol)

The former All Black is now the highest paid player on the planet raking in £1million a season from big spending new boys Bristol. The marquee signing has hit a snag though early on with a shoulder injury ruling him out of the opening night clash with neighbours Bath.

CHRIS ASHTON (Toulon to Sale)

The former England flyer broke the Top 14 try-scoring record in just one season with Toulon and Sale will be hoping he does the same in Manchester. Ashton’s return to England is due to a desire to once more pull on the national jersey but he may find try-scoring opportunities more limited than in France.

LIMA SOPOAGA (Highlanders to Wasps)

One of the top fly-halfs in the world, Wasps have pulled off a major coup with the signature of the 27-year-old All Black. Both with the ball in hand and off the boot the former Highlander is one of the best playmakers on the planet. Wasps fans enjoy.

Lima Sopoaga is a massive signing for Wasps

TAQELE NAIYAROVORO (Waratahs to Northampton)

The flying Fijian was unstoppable for NSW in Super Rugby this season, scoring 15 tries and carrying for a whopping 1,478 metres. The Saints have picked him up in the form off his life and if they can keep him fit he will cause carnage.

JAMIE ROBERTS (Harlequins to Bath)

The Wales veteran desperately wants to make it to the 2019 Rugby World Cup so has moved west to Bath to hopefully give his career a late bloom. The years of direct running may have taken their toll on the good doctor whose best years maybe behind him.

FRANCO MOSTERT (Lions to Gloucester)

One of a trio of Lions that Johan Ackermann has brought to Kingsholm from his former South African club. 27-Test Springbok Mostert is superb in the lineout, mobile in the loose and rugged at the breakdown. Expect him to make a big impact.

DAN BIGGAR (Ospreys to Northampton)

After scoring over 2000 points in Swansea over 11 seasons, and playing 62 Tests for Wales, the 28-year-old has made the move to England in search of a new challenge. On his day he is one the world’s top playmakers and could be the missing link to Saints success.

JAMES HASKELL (Wasps to Northampton)

At 33 years of age the England flanker may be beyond his best but his experience and competitiveness more than make up for a wearying physique. He played over 100 games for Wasps and will want to put in a huge season to make sure he is selected for RWC 2019. Saints will benefit.

BRAD SHIELDS (Hurricanes to Wasps)

Shields is regarded by many as one of the unluckiest New Zealand players in history never to represent the All Blacks. The 27-year-old flanker played exactly 100 games for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby and will be hungry to perform for his new club and country.

DANNY CIPRIANI (Wasps to Gloucester)

Some might be surprised to see Cipriani included, especially after his recent night out in Jersey, but the fly-half is both talented and determined and with a pack of hardened Springboks giving him ball on the front foot he could wreak some havoc.

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