A week after claiming their first major silverware in 143 years when they lifted the LV= Cup, the Chiefs were brought crashing back down to earth by a rampant Tigers side.
In a vintage display from the East Midlanders, they scored six tries in total through Logovi'i Mulipola, Niki Goneva, Adam Thompstone and David Mele (2) to keep themselves well in the play-off picture with just five rounds of the season remaining.
The Chiefs did their best to stay in contention, but tries from Jack Yeandle and Ian Whitten, coupled with five points from the boot of young fly-half Henry Slade, were all the visitors could muster in terms of a response.
“It was always going to be a big ask coming here,” said Baxter afterwards. “It’s not something we didn’t think about before the game. We talked to the players about it all week and said how important it was for us to get our feet on the ground and come up here and produce a big performance.
“We have had a couple of big emotional weeks coming through the games against Bath and then Northampton, so it was always dangerous that we may not have seen this as the biggest game of the month.
“I don’t want to make excuses for the players because I have told them I’m not going to. I’ve said to them, if you want to be a good player who is playing in a good side at this time of the year, you have to be able to go from big game to big game.
“Look at Leicester, they are potentially going to go from a couple of big Premiership games into a Heineken Cup quarter-final and then wanting to push into a semi-final or a final in either the Premiership or Europe, so you have to be able to roll from one emotional performance to another.
“We haven’t had the experience of this before, but at the same time you can’t run away from that. I am a little disappointed in some ways that the gap at the end was as big as it was. That said, one thing I am confident of is that end scoreline is not a realistic gap when Leicester normally play Exeter.
“Today we were under different circumstances and in a way I think it showed. What we have to do is learn from it because this shows you how tough rugby can be.”
Baxter added: "You have to get yourselves up for a big game then roll straight into another one, it's a big experience for some of the guys and we have to learn to deal with that.
"I'm never disappointed coming to Leicester and losing, your season shouldn't be defined by that, plenty of clubs have good seasons and don't win at Leicester. But it was disappointing that we gave it up so easily, and in a lot of ways uncharacteristically.
"There were hints of our attack there today, but almost when it was too late. We did have licence to come here and play, but we did a lot of things half-heartedly. It's a hard thing to say but our heart didn't look in it and if there's one place you're going to suffer it is Leicester."
The Chiefs coach admitted his team may well have been tired - both mentally and emotionally - after recent weeks, but insists the loss may well be the wake-up call his side need heading into the final weeks of the season.
“If anything good comes out of today, I guess this will have freshened up anything that was lingering around after the Northampton game,” said Baxter. “Today was like having a cold bath and it really should wake us up.”
Next up for the Chiefs is this Saturday’s impending visit of Gloucester to Sandy Park, where nothing less than a victory will be enough for Baxter and his team in their quest to record a top six finish.
“Home games are always massively important,” continued Baxter. “Right now we are still in with a shout of making the top six, but looking at other results this weekend we have a real battle on our hands.
“I am hoping that today’s game is one that we had to get out of our system, but it also shows the level that we have to be at when we play Gloucester next week. They’ve had a good result this week, they’ve run in tries and they like this time of year as well, so we need to have a good training week.
“One thing after a performance like today is that you can challenge the players in training and we can slap them with a few things that didn’t quite go so well.”
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