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Keep The Rabbit in The Bag


December 13 2009

CJB looks at Exeter Chiefs Chamionship campaign.

Keep the Rabbit in the Bag

in this Cat & Mouse Game !

I’ve been trying to second-guess Coach Baxter’s strategy for the season. Peek in the ‘Winner Takes ALL!’ end of season ‘Play Off’ poses Rob and his back room staff with quite a dilemma.

Build momentum developing a sustained winning edge over 22 games should be the acid test
BUT is probably NOT the way to win promotion.

I was so very excited at the start of this season! Chiefs hit the road running edging the mighty Sale Sharks over two games with an awesome defense (yes we conceded a points;
BUT against such quality opponents our defence was did better than last years Premiership average.) I saw enough in attack against Sale to really encourage me, remember Sale beat Leicester the week after us!

Our early season performances were impressive.

Roaring to 50 points against a credible Moseley XV showed some quite spectacular offensive plays before we were reduced to 14 men.

In my book, Chief’s were immense in the first hour or so of the Moseley game !

The speed, pace and scope of attack really excited me. Players unloaded cleverly, sensibly and skilfully in the tackle to keep the ball alive. Support players on the ball carrier were ever present and support players, supporting support players was real quality.
It was GOOD, in my book, very, very good. Players running from deep, running angles and reverse angles they cut Moseley to ribbons.
Wave on wave of support runners gave the ball carrier attacking options to keep the plays flowing from side to side, end to end relentlessly probing, challenging and penetrating a defense that was swamped by the variety and volume of questions asked by a confident, flowing multi-faceted ebullient Chiefs offence.

Yes.. I really liked it. What a start.

I missed the following few games but the scoring at Bristol suggests we did similar things at the Memorial Ground, especially early doors before the home teams fight back.

What a contrast this early season style to the hesitant, faltering Chiefs of recent weeks.
OK so we keep winning, we give little away, we scoring points and we are unbeaten. Everyone seems happy. We are top of the league and should be happy, but in truth we are ‘Winning Ugly’ and I think we are capable of so much more!

I too was at Donny and agree with the consensus, it was an entertaining encounter,
a good competition and a good battling afternoons entertainment,

Similarly I bring to mind games with London Welsh, Birmingham, Bedford, Pirates and Nottingham.

Chiefs won all…. but for me we won ‘Ugly’ without hitting top gear in any of these games and without approaching the heights we gave a glimpse of in the early season. I think we are capable of so much more!

In the normal way of League Rugby I should be delighted by our unbeaten run, but something circulates deep in my soul as an uncomfortable feeling of ‘disappointment’ permeates my inner thoughts.

Increasingly I’m thinking that Chiefs are doing JUST enough to win with so much more in reserve and still in the tank they arfe not showing us!

My early season fire of enthusiasm has largely been extinguished in recent weeks with an apparent lack of ambition to overwhalm our opponents.

Yet I can’t fault the coach or the team!

The logical development of a league season is to consistently build pace, empathy & understanding between players as momentum builds momentum. Battle hardened ferocity, intensity, pace, power and ‘CLASS’ over the season emerging as the Championship team leaves all in its wake over a a sustained 7 month home and away test.

My heart yearns for the Chiefs to blow the league apart with a sustained unbeaten run where we get better and better and better right up to the last game when the championship and promotion are ours.

But the ‘Banana Slide’ and ‘Bear Traps’ of the end of season Play Off appears BIG on the horizon and thought s of Moseley - Leeds come to mind.

If we let the 'cat out of the bag' and show our full hand, giving of our best to win the league in GREAT STYLE it will be of little comfort IF, having proved to be the best over 22 games, we falter in the ALL important Play Offs.

I’ve a recurrent nagging thought that someone 'Canny old campaigners finishing 7th or 8th in the normal season will SAVE their best till last find their form to hit the Play offs with growing confidence, energy and style to find a few weeks form to punch above their weight and take the title!

Then again I’m haunted by the thought that Nottingham might pull a pride of duel registered Tigers to bolster their play off squad again punching above their rightful weight.

Then again I think the likes of Bristol running into the playoffs with fresh-faced big name signings from south of the equator to load their Play off hand.

I think it nonsense that such a BIG prize as promotion to the Premiership be reduced to effectively a seeded lottery of a compressed end of season Cup competition seals the deal.

The rules are the rules and are the same for all clubs. I would so like to see Rob insisting on the very best from our boys week in week out
BUT …… I’m increasingly minded to think he is better advised to keep the ‘Rabbit in the Bag' play a Cat and Mouse game not fully showing his hand.

Keeping the powder dry until it REALLY matters in the Play off is the frustrating reality of this seasons challenge.

Shame on you RFU your framework having taking away the integrity of the league season proper has reduced the Championship to merely the practice laps with teams vying for pole position for the race proper that does not start until the spring of 2010.

I believe Rob has taken his foot of the gas in a strategy to be save his best and not show his hand until he is ready to peaking when it really matters!

I’ve seen enough to know that over a season Exeter Chiefs ARE the Best in the Championship and worthy of promotion.

The trick is being able to apply the gas and light the afterburners on demand when asked.
To have the pace, understanding and intensity on tap in the pressure cooker of the Play Offs is a worthy quality, NOT the quality that should determines League Champions: a team worthy of promotion on 22 games played over 7 month’s should be that yard sick, BUT winning the play of demands a quality and it is a quality we MUST work to have in our tank.

Keep the Rabbit in the Bag Rob, but please, please have our strategy clearly sorted so all are ready and prepared to hit the gas, raise the pace and intensity and realise the potential we showed glimpses of in the early season.

I’ve a growing respect for you as a coach and strategist Rob. Clearly you have made huge progress in the past year. You are already a good coach, I think and believe you are ahead of the game and I’m beginning to think you could well be the Great Coach in the making that this Club is looking for.

Can Coach Baxter do for Sandy Park what Shankly did at Anfield?

IF Rob believes deep within himself that he can…….

If he communicates and inspires the same belief in his players…..

I’m beginning to think he; and his very impressive Chiefs will.... !

Exciting times ahead at Sandy Park……..
I think!

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Keep The Rabbit in The Bag (IP Logged)
13/12/2009 11:27
What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Moorsman (IP Logged)
13/12/2009 11:29
Great post CJB now available for a wider audience. (Sm152)

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
LboroChief (IP Logged)
13/12/2009 11:59
here here - a good, interesting read.

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
spicksparkle (IP Logged)
13/12/2009 14:00
Blimey!!! Excellent article, thankyou.(Sm152)

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
chiefswatcher (IP Logged)
14/12/2009 08:59
wish i could string that number of words together.

the coaches strategy seem to me to be spot on. win every game. win pretty, win ugly, win at all costs, but just keep winning.

not sure i'll be too unhappy if it continues until the end of the season.

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Mabolza (IP Logged)
28/12/2009 10:22
CJB, I do hope that rabbit is STILL in the bag

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
28/12/2009 12:55
Yea, unfortunately its been trussed, stuffed n roasted!!!!

Chiefs Chiefs CHIEFS

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Chief caps (IP Logged)
02/01/2010 16:55
Ok, own up who let the Rabbit out of the bag or is todays result still part of the cunning plan?

Where's is baldrick when you need him?

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Sunbury (IP Logged)
02/01/2010 17:33
Keeping the Rabbit in the Bag is aload of codswallop. Professional sportsmen do not like losing and don't willing under perform.

Bristol Welsh
Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Bristol Welsh (IP Logged)
02/01/2010 17:48
Its all a cunning plan to finish 4th, so you cant lose in the semis to us, and keep your powder dry for the final. isn't it?[:wor kid:]

jon ford
Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Fordy (IP Logged)
02/01/2010 18:01
Its a gamble saving your best til last in my opinion. If you can rotate squad but keep the cohesive momentum throughout the season then that should win the play offs with the momentum from a good league position. Not sure that we (Bristol) will be signing many overseas players to secure our position come the play offs either.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2010:01:02:18:03:10 by Fordy.

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
SJP (IP Logged)
21/03/2010 17:31
Looks like the rabbit is still in the bag.

EDF Trophy Winners 2007
B & I Cup Winners 2010

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
noibla (IP Logged)
21/03/2010 18:55
Looks more like a ferret to me sancreed the bleddy rabbits dead.

Semper Sersum.

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Wyn (IP Logged)
21/03/2010 19:04
You did remember to put air holes in the bag, didn't you?

....oh dear...

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Chief caps (IP Logged)
21/03/2010 19:36
I new it wouldn't take long for the gloaters to come out of the bag.

Yes we lost today to the better side and well done to Nottingham but what has really changed?

we're still in the playoffs and if we win every game more than likely we will progress to the semi final,yes it's a bit more difficult now with the extra pressure we have placed on ourselfs but I still believe we will reach the semi finals and now we might have to do it the hard way to get to the final and play Bristol away, hey when it mattered in the league we won there and got a winning bonus point we can do it again.

So the Rabbit may still be in the bag for a little longer bring on London Welsh and lets see that rabbit come out of the bag so fast that not even a grey hound can catch it.

East Terrace center

Exeter Chiefs a Premership Rugby Club

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2010:03:21:19:49:43 by Chief caps.

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Mabolza (IP Logged)
21/03/2010 19:46
Please don't feed the Trolls.

They KNOW how much we are hurting tonight.

They have experienced the same pain TWENTY SIX times between them this season ( so far )

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Wyn (IP Logged)
26/05/2010 07:27
Any chance of seeing the famous rabbit tonight?

Or has he been forgotten...

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Geronimo Jim (IP Logged)
26/05/2010 07:51
Very witty wyntngley, did you stay up all night thinking that one up?

Beware of our rabbit, it's a direct descendent of the one used in this.

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Wyn (IP Logged)
26/05/2010 23:33
So the secret was...

a rabbit that kicks (Sm100) and Bris were...

Absolutely weighed, measured and found wanting... (Sm56)

Best of luck in the Premiership.

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Geronimo Jim (IP Logged)
26/05/2010 23:38
Cheers and thanks for the good grace.

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Blackbird (IP Logged)
27/05/2010 00:13
Geronimo Jim, U crack me up!! I love your posts and I am a mummy squaw. So proud of all the guys tonite, wish I cud have been there but will be at the first prem game. The best team won !!!

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Blackbird (IP Logged)
27/05/2010 01:46
And tho, the rabbit appears!!

Re: Keep The Rabbit in The Bag
Kilo5 (IP Logged)
27/05/2010 22:48
Yep a kick a$$ rabbit unlike the rabbit stunned in the headlights at the Mem last night! (Sm23)

Living the dream
Supporting The Chiefs in the AP

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