TOP BAR - Fixtures

Exeter’s destiny in their own hands – Dollman

Phil Dollman believes Exeter Chiefs have their seasonal destiny firmly in their own hands as they look to attack on three different fronts between now and the end of the campaign.

After four successive Aviva Premiership victories – the latest being a record-breaking 74-19 success over winless London Welsh – the Chiefs are not only sitting second in the league standings, but are nicely placed to also attack the latter stages of both the European Challenge and LV= Cups.

It was around this time a year ago that Rob Baxter's side collected their first-ever piece of major silverware when they defeated Northampton Saints to win the LV= Cup at Sandy Park.

This Sunday the Devon club continue their defence of that very crown when they head to Leicester Tigers for a last four showdown at Welford Road (1pm), whilst next month a last eight encounter in Europe with Newcastle Falcons also awaits.

Welshman Dollman admits it's exciting times for all and sundry at the club, but knows it's vital that the Chiefs remain level-headed and continue to produce the workmanlike displays that have netted them much of their success so far this season.

The Westcountry outfit have made no secret that the Premiership remains their top priority this season, especially as they look to get back amongst Europe's elite in the Champions Cup, but if additional success follows then there is no reason why the Chiefs cannot look to prosper further.

"The top four is not a reality yet. It is a bit of a goal of ours to stay in the top four, but the ball is in our court, we have got to produce the performances to stay in there, and if we’re not performing as a top-four club we won’t stay in there," said the 29-year-old back.

"It is a very exciting place to be. We want to be in these big games at the end of the season. It gives us something to build on and carry into the last part of the season.

"Rob has banged on about it before, but we want to be in knock-out games and top-of-the-Premiership matches. It will only be good for us going forward as a squad, and it shows the quality we have."

Certainly the Chiefs have given themselves every opportunity, particularly in this latest block of league fixtures against Newcastle Falcons, Harlequins, Bath and London Welsh, but Dollman is aware much tougher tests lie in wait over the coming weeks.

With Leicester Tigers (away), Northampton Saints (home), Wasps (away), Saracens (away) and Sale Sharks (home) all to come, the Chiefs could not have asked for a more challenging conclusion to their league campaign.

That said, Dollman and his colleagues are relishing the prospect of not only these games, but also the upcoming Cup clashes where equally high stakes are on offer.

Dollman added: "This is the business end of the season and this is when the top sides really start to make their move. We've done well over this last block of Premiership games to get where we have, but it's really a case of us building on that and pushing even harder over the coming weeks.

"We're in a good place right now, but that can quickly change if we're not on our game and we're not collecting results. London Welsh showed at the weekend, especially early on, just how competitive this division can be so we can't take anything for granted.

Indeed, Dollman praised his team-mates for "riding out the storm" against an Exiles side who defied their lowly position during the opening quarter of last Saturday's game to lead after 20 minutes. Prop Nathan Trevett stole over for a third-minute try, before winger Seb Stegmann’s finish gave them a 12-6 lead.

However, the Chiefs quickly regrouped and in a powerful display flexed their muscles sufficiently to eventually run in ten tries, including another brace for top try-scorer Thomas Waldrom.

"I think the first half was a case of us riding out the storm,” said the former Dragons player. “They chucked everything at us for 20 minutes but we knew that if we stuck to what we were good at – both defensively and in attack – we would come out on top.

"We knew they could attack well and we were probably not quite on our mettle defensively to cover their offloads and their running game.

"They attacked us hard and attacked us well so they did stretch us and they put some pressure on us, but we bounced back from that, rode the storm out and came out on top in the end."
 

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