Henry Slade insists Exeter Chiefs are exactly where they want to be at this stage of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season, as they look to book their spot in back-to-back finals in the competition.
Rob Baxter’s side, Aviva Premiership Rugby finalists last term, endured a tough start to the season as they picked up just two wins from their opening seven matches.
But they have rallied and are unbeaten in the 11 rounds since, propelling themselves up to second in the standings and keeping themselves on course for a home semi-final.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) April 6, 2017
And with their fate entirely in their own hands for the final four rounds of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season, England international Slade sees no reason they cannot go all the way to the title.
“We’d definitely have taken this position at the start of the season,” he said. “We had a shaky start with some tough games.
“Wasps away, Saracens as well, they’re two tough games. So we never really panicked. Quite a few people were saying we weren’t the same team as last year.
“But we’ve shown in the last few months, especially, that we’re really building towards this end of the season and have put ourselves in a really good position to push on from here.
“We were really disappointed last year to get through the whole way and lose the final, but we were really pleased with how we went about ourselves as a whole to get to the final.
“Getting there was massive for the club. We were disappointed that we couldn’t get that little extra bit over the line and lift the trophy, so hopefully we can do it this year.
“Pretty much every year we’ve been in the Aviva Premiership we’ve improved, so the only way for us to go from last year is to go all the way, but we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves.”
The West Country outfit only just edged out Sale Sharks in their last match, recovering from 19-5 down to win 30-25 – with Slade notching ten points from the kicking tee.
And the versatile back admits they will have to really be on their mettle if they are to avoid a similar scare against Bristol Rugby, with this weekend’s opponents battling for Aviva Premiership Rugby survival.
However a win would guarantee a place in the semi-finals for the second season in succession, while keeping them in the hunt for a top two finish and a home semi-final.
He said: “It’s a big game for us, we were second best against Sale last time out, but credit to them they came down here and played well.
“They shocked us early on with the intensity and physicality so we know we’ve definitely got to up it coming into this weekend.
“But saying that, we’re confident and have picked up quite a few points from our last few games, so we’re looking forwards to the challenge.
“It’s pleasing that we have it in our hands to wrap up the semi-final spot with three games to play.
“We’re focussing on ourselves and what we have left to gain out of this season. We’re on a bit of a run and we want to get a home semi-final, so we’re pushing to the last regulation game of the season to get it, then whatever happens after that, happens.”
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) April 5, 2017
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