Leicester Tigers lock Will Spencer revealed there were mixed emotions in the home dressing room following defeat to Gallagher Premiership table-toppers Exeter at Welford Road on Saturday.
Spencer’s side went toe-to-toe with last season’s finalists in a frantic first 40 minutes, but the Devon side pulled ahead following the break after Tigers skipper Tom Youngs was shown a red card for an illegal clear out.
“There’s a feeling of huge disappointment in the changing room,” said Spencer, immediately after the final whistle. “We’ve lost the game quite convincingly in the end to a very good Exeter side.
“They’re top of the log for that reason; they’re a fantastic rugby side.
“But at the same time we showed some good stuff in that first half, and we really hurt them at times.
“We’ve got to think that is probably a step forward in our attacking game, but we need to shore up our defence.”
“Defensively we’ve got to be better.”Will Spencer
But mid-way through the second half, Leicester’s hooker was shown red by referee Tom Foley after TMO replays showed he had made contact with the neck area of Chiefs lock Ollie Atkins at a ruck.
Spencer said that while the incident did not turn the result of the game, it did make life harder.
He added: “Credit to Exeter, it’s very hard to play against them with 15 men.
“They’re fantastic at keeping the ball, they run you all over the place, and as a forward it’s the toughest game of the season.
“They play such a good, exciting brand of rugby, so to do it with 15 men is tough, but when you go down to 14 it just becomes that little but harder.”
Focus will now be on Tigers’ Round 19 fixture on Friday night away to a Newcastle side that currently prop up the Premiership pile.
“We’ll prepare well, like we prepared well this week,” Spencer said.
“At times we played some really positive rugby and I’m sure the fans saw that as well, especially in that first half where we were having a go.
“But defensively we’ve got to be better. We missed too many first-hit tackles on some quality players today, and Exeter hurt us.”