Richards disappointed following Exeter defeat
Trailing 32-3 at half-time before bouncing back to draw the second half 14-14, the Director of Rugby admitted: “We didn’t turn up on the day. The first half was key to everything, we expected a backlash after beating Exeter at our place and it meant a lot to these boys. We knew it was going to be physical but we didn’t go out and weren’t as physical on the day.”
Asked if Exeter’s precision was the difference, Richards replied: “We allowed them to be precise. Defensively we were very weak, we didn’t make our tackles and we were very soft in the collisions.
“We allowed them a lot of go-forward and if you do that against a quality side with people like Jack Nowell in the backs, they will take those opportunities all day long. It was a disappointing day. The first half was key to everything and we didn’t show up for it.”
Having scored try bonus points in their previous six games and taking three from four games in the cups, Richards said: “We have done well over the past few months but the Aviva Premiership is an unforgiving place.
“It is the most difficult club competition in the world and it certainly brought us back down to earth with a bump.
“Yeah we had a few injury issues in certain places, but that should not rock us to the point where we have as bad a day as we did today.”
The Director of Rugby went on to explain that his players were particularly critical of themselves at half time.
“The players expect a lot more of themselves. They sat down at half-time and said they had to put it right because they were embarrassed by the first half performance.
“They knew they had to put it right and they put a lot of effort into that second 40. It was always difficult to claw back a deficit that big against a quality side and it was probably never going to happen, but it was that pride that they wanted to salvage.
“I wanted to see more ambition and more physicality, a greater dominance of the contact area and we did get a little bit of that. But you want it right from the off rather than when you are 29 points down, and we didn’t do it.”