LONDON Irish lock Bryn Evans is determined to shake off the frustrations of their Leicester Tigers mauling and bounce back at Exeter Chiefs this Saturday (3pm ko), writes Shakila Barabhuiya.
New Zealand-born Evans missed more than two months of action after fracturing his eye socket in a 19-11 defeat at Newcastle Falcons.
The giant Kiwi made a try-scoring return for the Exiles in the St Patrick's Day clash on Sunday. But the party fell flat when Toby Booth's men were beaten 41-32 by Tigers after leading with minutes to go.
It was Exiles' fifth successive Premiership defeat in a row, leaving their hopes of qualifying for next season's Heineken Cup hanging by a thread.
Now Evans is looking to put some fizz back in Irish's season and finish the campaign strongly, starting with what looks a daunting trip to Devon to face the league's surprise package in their own back yard.
Speaking exclusively to the Chronicle, Evans said: "We want to keep focusing on ourselves and look to put in good performance this Saturday.
"We've just got to keep doing our jobs as individuals. If everyone takes care of themselves then results will follow.
"We're still playing good rugby with a lot of energy, as Sunday showed. It was a big occasion and we wanted to put on a performance for the fans.
"I was bitterly disappointed with the result but as a team we were happy with how we played. We hung in there and managed to claw our way back into the game, but we couldn't quite hold on against a quality Leicester side."
Speaking of quality sides, Exeter's improvement under Rob Baxter has been nothing short of remarkable in only their second Premiership season.
A run of five wins in six league games including a 19-11 home victory over the Tigers has propelled them up to fifth in the table.
They also remain notoriously hard to beat at Sandy Park where even Premiership leaders Harlequins struggled before sneaking a 11-9 win in late December.
But with Irish looking to recover from losing their last five league matches - and eight in the last nine in all competitions - Evans knows the size of the task ahead.
"They're a really good side, especially on their home turf," admitted the 27-year-old. "They're a team that does the basics right and they're dominant at set pieces.
"They've had some great results this season but we're looking to go down there and play some positive rugby and do our best to stop them attacking."
Exiles, though, did beat Exeter 29-22 at the Madejski in December. And Evans' try against Tigers and his all-round performance should see him keep the shirt for the trip to Sandy Park.
"Getting back into the side was tough because we have a lot of quality players fighting for their positions," he stressed.
"It took a bit of grafting on the training field but once you get a chance to play you really have to take it. It was nice to score a try on the weekend, I was in the right place at the right time."
With four Premiership matches to go, Irish will be desperate to finish with a flourish after what has been an in indifferent campaign.
Only earlier this month Brian Smith returned to the fold for a second sting following his three-year stint as England's attack coach. Australian Smith came in as director of rugby, with Booth remaining on as head coach.
And Evans says Smith is already having an impact on the squad: "It's good to have an informal, approachable person like him around and he's got a great deal of knowledge behind him. He's another brain to pick.
"Toby is still running the show but having Brian around is good for the squad. He makes sure nobody misses out including the young players."
And he insisted: "We've got four ways to go but we're taking it one game at a time. We want to play some positive rugby and see where that takes us."