Leicester Tigers are used to reaching the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals but Ed Slater says a top-four finish this year would taste even sweeter after a difficult campaign.
Saturday’s 30-3 victory against Newcastle Falcons, coupled with Bath Rugby’s defeat at Worcester Warriors, leaves the Tigers four points clear in the race for the top four.
Wasps, Exeter Chiefs and defending champions Saracens have all booked their semi-finals berth – and it is now down to Leicester, Bath and Northampton Saints to fight for the final spot.
Leicester’s campaign has been far from straightforward, with director of rugby Richard Cockerill and head coach Aaron Mauger both leaving during the season.
Good and tough victory today!!! Happy to felt Welford Road atmosphere ❤
Keep working 💪🐯
— Maxime Mermoz (@MaximeMermoz1) April 15, 2017
And lock Slater, 28, is adamant they are doubly motivated to lift the Aviva Premiership Rugby trophy at the end of the campaign.
“It always means a lot to get into the semi-finals,” he said.
“Last year was 12 semi-finals in a row so to do it under the circumstances this year where two coaches have left the club would mean a lot.
“From the outside, it is a great achievement but as a squad we have never really wavered from what we are trying to achieve.
“We are a tight squad and our target is always to finish in the top four and have a chance to lift the trophy.”
Leicester certainly looked at their best against Newcastle on Saturday, with Ben Youngs in supreme form as they scored four tries at Welford Road.
Ellis Genge scored two tries, while Telusa Veainu also crossed, but it was Youngs who stole the show with a fine late try to cap off an outstanding all-round display.
Leicester will have to be at their best to reach the Twickenham showdown, with Wasps, Exeter and Saracens all in excellent form.
They have reached the semi-finals 12 years in a row, but have not appeared in the final since beating Northampton Saints to lift the trophy in 2012-13.
Great 5 point win today. Plenty of work still to do but a step in the right direction. Exciting times ahead. Support excellent as usual 👍🏻
— Dominic Barrow (@DominicBarrow) April 15, 2017
And Slater says there is a real hunger and desire to ensure they do not miss out for a fourth straight season.
“Maybe as a younger guy you take that a little bit for granted and so missing out on the final for the last four years really sits with me,” he said.
“I crave success again. All players want to win trophies especially in the Aviva Premiership which I believe is getting harder and harder.
“It would be achievement to get to the final but there is still a lot of rugby between now and then.”
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