Exeter Chiefs forward Don Armand says he is looking forward to ironing out mistakes following his side’s Gallagher Premiership defeat to Bristol Bears on Sunday.
Rob Baxter’s men led the Bears 17-0 at half time, courtesy of tries from Sam Simmonds and Nic White, but a second-half resurgence saw the Bristolians steal victory at the death with a score credited to replacement Dan Thomas.
While disappointed with the final score, the Zimbabwean-born star reflected on the positives after the game.
“I think we played some good rugby, especially in the first half,” explained Armand. “Towards the middle of the second half, Bristol found a bit of energy and fire, and we did some things that were quite uncharacteristic. Taking the positives out of it, it’s a game that we can learn from because this league is obviously going to be tough this year. It will be good to look back on this and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.”
In a first half dominated by the Chiefs, the half-time break could not have been better timed for the visitors, who used the 15-minute interval to regroup and get their act back in order. Two Callum Sheedy penalties helped to reduce the arrears, before Piers O’Conor raced in under the sticks to set-up a grandstand finish.
Even then, the Chiefs looked comfortable enough – that was until the final minute – where they leaked two soft penalties, allowing the Bears to create the platform from which to claim their match-winning score.
Armand says he knows the importance of a calm head when you’re under the sticks, but admitted that the Bears really took it to them after the break.
“After one try scored you don’t want to panic too much, you just want to make sure you focus on the basics,” continued the England international. “But all they needed to do was score another try and all of a sudden they win the game, which was exactly what they did at the end. We had less than a minute to go, had possession, yet we ended up giving it away. Teams are hungry this year, they’re going to try and stick you in the corner. You have to try and stop it but, if you don’t, it will cost you the game”.
Armand featured in the 2016 Aviva Premiership Final, which Exeter won.
Armand replaced Chiefs newcomer Jacques Vermeulen on the hour mark, marking his first appearance in an Exeter jersey since last season’s Premiership Final back in June.
“It’s always good to pull on the jersey, especially after being out for a while,” he said. “There’s definitely a real sense of appreciation with being able to put it back on, and it was great to come out here at Sandy Park.”
Exeter face their next Premiership opponent on home turf in two weeks’ time when they welcome Dai Young’s Wasps to Sandy Park. However, there is no rest for the Devonians, who travel to France on Saturday for their European Champions Cup match-up with La Rochelle.
Don Armand shakes the hand of Bristol’s Nathan Hughes at the final whistle
It promises to be another testing assignment for the Chiefs, but Armand is confident a good week of training can help to alleviate any issues that stemmed from the Bristol clash.
“We, as a forward pack, need to make sure that the basics are what we’re focusing on,” he added. “I think we defended Bristol well, but give anyone enough chances and they’re going to get over the line.
“We’ve got a big European fixture next week so that’s going to be our focus, I think it’s important not to jump too far ahead with our thinking. Our main focus is La Rochelle and getting things sorted for that.”