Exeter Chiefs fly-half Gareth Steenson admitted the prospect of playing the LV= Cup final at Sandy Park gave the players an extra incentive to win at Worcester Warriors on Saturday.
The Chiefs’ impressive 42-3 victory against their fellow Premiership side at Sixways ensured Exeter finished top of Pool Two, and booked them a semi-final trip to arch Westcountry rivals Bath on the weekend of March 7-9.
“When it came out that the final was going to be at Sandy Park, it was always in the back of our minds who would be in the home changing room for that game. It would be nice if it was ourselves, and it gave us a massive incentive,” said the Irishman, who scored 22 points against the Warriors.
“We are obviously very pleased to go away from home and score five tries at a good Premiership side, and to book ourselves into the semi-finals.
“We will put that at the back of our minds for now and get ready for the next block of Premiership games, but, whenever the semi-final comes around, we will be ready to go for it.”
Two strong sides took to the pitch at Sixways as both clubs used the match to get themselves up to speed in readiness for the resumption of Premiership action next weekend after a four-week break from league fixtures, but they also had to cope with some difficult conditions.
“It was tough in the conditions, and the forwards definitely fronted up really well and provided the platform for us, and to get the bonus point was fantastic,” 29-year-old Steenson added.
“We are delighted with that, and now we have got the semi-final as well, so it is something to look forward to.”
He added: “Taking the game to Worcester was something we talked about doing.
“Ospreys obviously did us a favour on Friday night with a win over Sale, which kept our hopes of qualifying alive, but, even if there had been nothing to play for, we wanted to use the game to build momentum going into the Premiership.
“We said we had to go to Worcester and put in a good 80-minute performance, and I think we got that.
“It was a really professional job from the lads, and we reaped the rewards at the end with a few scores.”
Just as satisfying as the five tries for Exeter was the fact that they limited Worcester to only three points on their home ground.
“We pride ourselves on working really hard in defence and it is coming on, and that is something we will be really proud of, as much as the five tries,” said Steenson.
“There were a lot of positives to take out of the game, but also a lot of work-ons, and we will have a good week now leading into the Northampton match.”
The clash with the Saints at Sandy Park next Saturday evening is crucial to Exeter’s hopes of a top-four finish and gaining a place in the Premiership semi-finals, and the Chiefs’ coaches have used the past month to get themselves ready for that game.
Saturday’s win was their third on the trot, after successes over Cardiff Blues and Ospreys, and they will go into the contest in fine fettle.
“The Northampton game is something we have had in the back of our minds while we have been playing the two Heineken Cup games and the two LV= Cup matches,” Steenson admitted.
“We were always trying to get ourselves geared and ready, and trying to build momentum, which we have done with the way our results have gone in the last three weeks.
“We now face a good Northampton side at Sandy Park. It will be a really good challenge for us and it is something we’re really looking forward to. We will enjoy this win and get ourselves ready,” he concluded.