Director of rugby Dean Richards’ credited Exeter Chiefs’ superior game management as the Devon side shaded Sunday’s Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final at Sandy Park by a 20-17 margin.
Joe Simmonds’ late penalty eliminated a Falcons side who had led at half-time, Richards saying afterwards: “We have sat down in the changing room and acknowledged we weren’t as accurate as we should have been in almost every facet of play.
“Full credit to Exeter, they played with a little more composure than we did.
“That is disappointing, and I don’t know if it’s another long trip potentially catching us up or what, but the boys were disappointed more with the performance than the result. You don’t mind if you play well and lose, but we didn’t play well.”
Richards added: “I was disappointed with the first try they scored because there was a clear obstruction, but you’re never going to get every decision and I don’t think the referee is the reason we lost the game.
“We clawed our way back and I was reasonably pleased at half-time, but in the second half we didn’t come out and play with the accuracy we needed – be it our line-out, scrum, kicking game and just general broken-field play. We were a couple of notches down from where we have been recently.
“I don’t think the referee was the cause of it, ultimately we’ve got to sort out our set piece and understand how to play the wind better than we did. We didn’t play our shape as well as we should have done and you have to credit Exeter.”
Still sat at fourth in the Aviva Premiership and in the last eight of the European Challenge Cup, the Falcons’ boss said: “The thing for us now is to very quickly put this behind us because we have some massive games coming up with the Northampton match at St James’ Park on March 24 and a home European quarter-final on Good Friday.
“If we sit round moping about it we’ll not get anything done over the next two weeks, and it’s just one defeat. We need to see the job through after putting ourselves into a good position this season, and make sure all our good work to date hasn’t been for nothing.
“We didn’t play the conditions especially well, and I thought Exeter understood what was needed better than us. It then came down to our execution, and our kicking game was uncharacteristically poor.
“We showed with Simon Hammersley’s try what kind of rugby we have got in us when we get it right, but we’ve got to put this game to bed and understand that we’ve been performing well overall this season. Yeah, we’ll learn from today, but in two weeks’ time at St James’ Park it will be a different thing altogether.
“There’s enough drive within the camp to ensure that this one defeat doesn’t de-rail our season, and if there was an air of complacency then it was been well and truly knocked out of the boys. Going forward it will be a different story, and we have some huge games coming up.
“We’ll now give the boys a few days off because they have got through a lot of work, but we’ll be back in towards the end of the week ahead of what is a great opportunity at St James’ Park.
“We’ve got through the 20,000 attendance mark and we’re playing a brand of rugby that people want to watch, it will be a great occasion at St James’ Park and we’ll be right up for it.”
Tickets for The Big One on March 24 are available by clicking here.