The Chiefs were handed a record-equaling loss in the Aviva Premiership as the reigning champions produced their best display of the campaign on home soil to sink their rivals.
The six-try demolition in the 45-15 loss matched the 30-point margin with which the Chiefs lost at Northampton Saints in October 2011.
It leaves Rob Baxter’s men 11 points outside the top six, where they are likely to need to be to book a place in Europe’s top cup competition in 2014-15, with only five games of the campaign left.
However, with three matches still to come at Sandy Park, starting with the visit of Gloucester on Saturday, No.8 Horstmann is staying optimistic over the Chiefs’ chances.
“We always knew coming to Welford Road would be really hard,” he said. “But we backed ourselves and ended up nowhere near where we needed to be to get anything out of the game.
“There are matches left and there are plenty of points on offer. We know we are plenty capable of it so we are going to get excited by it. “As Rob (Baxter) said, this is our time of year, the tracks have dried up and it is good for us.”
Exeter were up against it almost from the word ‘go’, and trailed 22-10 after only half an hour.
“We are hugely disappointed with everything really. The way we performed, and how we came out of the blocks, and the scoreline says a lot really,” explained former Worcester No.8 Horstmann.
“We are massively disappointed, and emotions are still really raw at the moment, but we want to put things right immediately. “We are not going to mope around too much, we know we have let ourselves down and everyone who came here to support us.
“The good thing, though, is we have got another game next Saturday and it is quite a swift turnaround, so come Tuesday we will kick on and make sure we are hungry for it.”
Exeter just could not contain Leicester’s powerful strike runners in that devastating opening period when they shipped three tries, and paid dearly for a number of uncharacteristic first-up missed tackles.
“Leicester are a big, physical side, but we knew that going into the game, so there are no real excuses,” said the 32-year-old. “We didn’t stick to our systems, we didn’t come off the line hard enough and put them under pressure, and we gave away too many penalties, which is probably quite unlike us over the past few weeks.
“We came up here on a really good high from last week and felt we could kick on and take the Premiership by storm. We will now concentrate on Gloucester and that game is a big challenge for us.”
It was always going to be a tough ask for Exeter, coming only seven days after all the euphoria of winning the LV= Cup final against Northampton Saints at a packed Sandy Park.
The majority of the Tigers’ squad, meanwhile, had not played a game since March 2, so were fresh and raring to go, but Horstmann was not looking for excuses.
“We haven’t won a cup before and gone into another massive game only seven days later, and we will learn from that, but we just need to wise up sometimes and appreciate what is coming,” he said. “When you come to Welford Road, you are expecting a big battle, and you have got to expect to take a bit of a kicking in order to win games, and I don’t think we were quite prepared for everything, but let’s look forward to next week now.”
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