TOP BAR - Fixtures

Gareth Steenson praises the power of the Exeter Chiefs pack

Gareth Steenson may be Exeter’s master marksman, but the Chiefs fly-half was quick to praise the efforts of his forwards after they helped the Devon club return to winning ways on Sunday.

After successive defeats in the Aviva Premiership, Rob Baxter’s side rediscovered their winning habit at the Madejski Stadium as they won 22-15 against lowly London Irish.

Steenson’s 17-point haul, plus a second half try from Dave Lewis, sealed win number nine of the season for the Chiefs who remain second in the table, just four points adrift of leaders Saracens after 13 rounds of the season.

Delighted with his side’s latest victory, Steenson was quick to pay tribute to the performance put in by the visiting pack.

"We put a lot of emphasis on that," said the 31-year-old back. "The boys went well last week in the scrum at Sale and unfortunately we just didn't come away with the result and (on Sunday) it was very similar.

"We talked about when we get opportunities in the scrum we would be looking to get pens and we did that. We had that clarity up front, which was great and it's a different game whenever the boys up front are going forward. A lot of credit goes to them. They got a lot of penalties for us and thankfully we were able to capitalise on them."

Forward pressure was certainly the key ingredient for the Chiefs, who were stifled in attack by the Exiles for long period.

Although Baxter’s side missed out on a potential try-scoring bonus, Dungannon-born Steenson admitted any win on the road in the Premiership is one to always savour.

"I know London Irish are at the bottom of the table, but you come away from home in the Premiership and there is no easy fixture," he added. "They (London Irish) are a different beast here (at the Madjeski) and we are delighted to have come away with a result. We have had a tough four games, three of them away from home and it was very important for us to bang in a result and we are delighted to get an away win."

Exeter’s latest success could not have come at a better time as rivals Wasps and Harlequins maintained their own pursuit of the top two by collecting impressive wins of their own against Bath and Leicester Tigers respectively.

And more of the same will be demanded again this weekend from the Chiefs as they prepare to welcome Bath to a packed out Sandy Park on Sunday afternoon (1pm).

Undone 19-17 by their nearest and dearest on the opening day of the season at the Recreation Ground, Steenson says the Chiefs cannot afford to focus too much on their rivals moving forward, but instead concentrate on ensuring their own game plan is fully functional.

"You can't worry about them (the other teams)," said Steenson. "We can only really control what we can control and we have got Bath at home and we are very much going to be looking to get ready for that.

"They might not be going too well in the league, but they are always a tough fixture for us. It is a local derby and one the supporters are going to be looking forward to and one we are really going to be up for as well because we lost our last game at Sandy Park and we want to rectify that."

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