Boss Rob Baxter felt Exeter Chiefs were “deflated” in their heavy Investec Champions Cup loss at Bayonne by Northampton’s win at Munster.
Bayonne went on to beat Exeter 40-17 as they got a first-half bonus point.
“I could almost feel in the hotel that there was a little bit of quiet happened,” Baxter told BBC Radio Devon.
“They were almost a bit deflated and you could almost feel that they didn’t think they had the chance then to win the pool, and I don’t think we really recovered from that at any stage.”
Bayonne were already eliminated before kick-off and Baxter felt that gave them the freedom which Exeter did not have.
“The pressure was off to a degree for them to just get out there and play,” he said.
“They thrived on that and we struggled with that, and I don’t think we particularly played well.
“It wasn’t a great game of rugby from us, but I know why it’s happened and I can deal with that – it’s certainly not something which I feel is a terminal problem for us.”
Baxter added: “I said to the lads ‘our strength is we’re an emotional team and when we’re emotionally together we’re a very good side’.
“What we’ve shown is that’s what we are, and we were emotionally a bit off and it’s hurt us.”
The loss – Exeter’s only defeat in the pool stage after three successive victories – meant Chiefs did get a home draw in the last 16 as the eighth seeds, where they will face fellow Premiership side and West Country rivals Bath.
“From a club perspective that’s probably as good a fixture as we could have,” added Baxter.
“We always draw a big crowd for Bath. Bath can travel in numbers, it’ll probably be one hell of a day there, so in a lot of ways it’s not a negative situation.
“We’ll enjoy it and we’ll make the most of the day.”