With normal service resumed at the weekend with victory over London Irish, defending Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Exeter Chiefs take to the road tonight for their latest top-flight engagement.
Floored by a late sucker punch at Gloucester in their seasonal opener, Rob Baxter's side wasted little time in rediscovering their winning formula last Saturday, producing a five-try display that saw off the Exiles, as well as underlining the hallmarks of their title-winning credentials of last season.
The challenge moving forward, however, is to keep replicating that kind of form, starting tomorrow at Worcester Warriors, who for an hour at least last week, provided a decent work-out for last season's beaten finalists, Wasps.
In the end, the star-studded visitors flexed their muscles sufficiently to see off the challenge of their rivals, sealing a victory that was enough to send them to the top of the table.
Baxter, however, saw enough from the Warriors to suggest his side will not have things their own way in the Midlands – a scenario similar to last season when the Chiefs visited Sixways with vital points to play for.
"Last season we went to Worcester not long after they had put in a very good performance to beat Saracens and they were feeling pretty good about themselves," said Baxter. "We had to go there ourselves in what was a very important time of the season for us and try and collect some points.
"If you remember, they flew at us early on and took the lead. However, the one thing we did was we stuck to our guns, we stayed disciplined and we made them work incredibly hard for their points. Ultimately that is what allowed us to gain control in a period of the game where we then scored some good tries of our own.
"As I said, in a way it's a similar scenario where they have put in a good level of performance against Wasps last week. Anyone who saw that game, it was in the balance right into the final quarter, and they probably feel disappointed they didn't get more out of the game. That said, they will feel good about the way they are playing and areas of their game, so it will make it a tough challenge for us in what is an important part of the season."
Baxter added: "What I am pleased about from our perspective is so far we have done what I have challenged the players to do, which is to keep the season in their own hands. Currently we are in fourth place, so right now the season is bang in our hands because where we want to go can be decided by us and us only. That's a nice position to be in, but what we have to do now is fight as hard as we can to ensure as much of the season stays in our hands as possible."
Certainly, the Chiefs showed against the Exiles a week ago that the game plan seems fully functional - and that the late loss at Gloucester had not uncovered any major cracks in the make-up of the champions.
"I think the Irish game vindicated that a lot of what we did against Gloucester was pretty good," continued Baxter. "We didn't come in after that match or in our first meeting on the Monday and lay into the players about a poor performance, simply because everything showed us, both the stats out of the game and the physical markers, plus what we saw on the night as a coaching staff, that we had gone there and worked very hard.
"Could we have been a little bit more accurate in the work we did? Yes, we could, Anyone who was there will know we had a number of opportunities that normally we would have taken, plus we let in a fairly soft try and one dubious one, but a lot of what we did was pretty good.
"We talked afterwards about if we were willing to give that amount of effort into a game then we give ourselves a great chance. Against Irish we were better in a lot of the areas we raised and that allowed us to control large parts of the game. It was then nice for me to come in at half time last week, after a pretty good start to the game, and say to the players to just go out and enjoy what you do. That's a very satisfying feeling to have from a coaching perspective."
Not surprisingly, Baxter sticks with a virtually unchanged line-up with the sole change to his match-day 23 coming in the front-row, where Carl Rimmer swaps place with Ben Moon at loose-head. Otherwise, it’s ‘as you were’ for the Chiefs, who have never tasted defeat to the Warriors since being promoted into the Premiership back in 2010.
15 Phil Dollman
14 Jack Nowell
13 Henry Slade
12 Ian Whitten
11 Olly Woodburn
10 Gareth Steenson
9 Nic White
1 Carl Rimmer
2 Jack Yeandle (capt)
3 Tomas Francis
4 Mitch Lees
5 Jonny Hill
6 Dave Dennis
7 Don Armand
8 Sam Simmonds
16 Elvis Taione
17 Ben Moon
18 Harry Williams
19 Sam Skinner
20 Matt Kvesic
21 Stuart Townsend
22 Max Bodilly
23 Lachie Turner
Member since: 5th January 2016
Hi, I am Mark Stevens, Media and Communications Manager for the Exeter Chiefs