Dean Richards said he shared the frustrations of Newcastle Falcons’ fans as his side ended a long old slog of a season with a 16th successive Premiership defeat.
Worcester’s struggles had already meant Newcastle were at least spared the familiar end-of-season cliffhanger over what division they will be playing in next year but, by the time the new campaign kicks off in September, Richards’ side will have gone 10 months without a league win.
His side finshing on a downbeat note and with their lowest ever Premiership points tally under the current scoring system, the director of rugby lamented: “It has been a difficult year.
“You don’t want to finish a season in the way we just have.
“When it is raining as it was out there you just need to play territory and force the errors in their 22, as opposed to our own 22.
“We just didn’t have the capability of doing that.”
The Falcons’ failure to control the game was uppermost in Richards’ angst, Exeter belting the ball downfield, forcing mistakes and making in-roads through their grinding forward play.
Newcastle had little answer, save for two Joel Hodgson penalties and a dazzling display from Samoan winger Sinoti Sinoti.
“Thankfully we have some new faces coming in, and we are strengthening the side,” said Richards, with eight new signings already announced and one more expected this week.
Those hoping for an additional flurry of fresh blood beyond that look like being disappointed, just as they were on Saturday when Luke Cowan-Dickie was driven over for the first of Exeter’s three tries from a maul in the left corner.
Henry Slade’s penalty and flanker Ben White’s blindside break for a try extended the half-time margin to 15-6, Slade chipping another three with a penalty eight minutes into the second half.
For a Newcastle side who had shown so much attacking spark only the previous week it was the uninspiring opposite, James Fitzpatrick’s line-breaks a rare source of excitement in his final game before heading for Leeds. Gonzalo Tiesi put himself in behind the line on two occasions, linking with Sinoti, but it was just was not happening.
Replacement fly-half Phil Godman failed to grasp his chance with a kick charged down for Sam Hill to race 50 metres, half-back partner Warren Fury at least injecting pace into the attack.
Rugby league convert Lee Smith had the odd dart, but there was a sense of inevitability about Fetu’u Vainikolo’s 79th-minute try as the winger supported Haydn Thomas’ break to score.
Newcastle at least ended on a rare positive when Mark Wilson flopped over for a try with the very last play, but most of the crowd had already vacated the ground by the time the players came out to acknowledge their support.
Richards summed up the mood around the place, adding: “Exeter’s coach Rob Baxter was saying to me we must be pleased surviving after coming through what we have been through in terms of promotion from the Championship.
“Yeah, OK, survival is great, but we have not had the results we would have wanted.
“It has been frustrating at times, and we have to sort those frustrations out going into next year.
“With the quality of players we have coming in it would be wrong to utilise them in the way we have done this year, and it will be a different game plan.”