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Home sweet home for Steenson

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Gareth Steenson says a return to home comforts can help provide the perfect lift he and his Exeter Chiefs team-mates need after losing to Wasps in their seasonal opener at Wasps at the weekend.

Rob Baxter’s side will kick-off their home campaign this Sunday with a testing engagement against reigning English and European champions Saracens at Sandy Park (3pm).

With just one defeat on home soil in 20 months – that incidentally against Saracens last February – Steenson admits delivering on home turf is a key incentive.

“It’s a good test to put things right,” said the Irishman. “The boys are bitterly disappointed after the weekend because we dominated for long periods of the game and had a good lead at half time.

“Bigger picture, though, this time last year we had a very good pre-season, won all of our games, then went up to Bath and lost our first game.

“To come away from home – to a place like Wasps – and get a losing bonus point, it’s not all bad. Certainly it’s not all doom and gloom, we just have to pick ourselves up for next week against Sarries.

“Teams will come to Wasps and get nothing, so we have to take the positives out of it. This is the first game of 22, so let’s move on and look at what we can put right. Lots of the things we did were very good. Our structure was good and we carried the ball well, which are both things we talked about before the game.

“Maybe we had a sticky patch in the second half and at this level teams are going to have those momentum stages which you have to ride. We didn’t quite do that, so fair play to Wasps, they finished well.”

And no sooner had the final whistle blown following Sunday’s 22-20 loss then fly-half Steenson was looking to the upcoming arrival of Saracens to Devon.

“They are a top quality side and the only team to win at Sandy Park last season, so that’s something we want to put right,” he said. “As I said, it’s a big test for us and we’re proud of our home record, so hopefully a full house at Sandy Park can drive us on.”

Sunday’s match will be the first meeting of the two clubs since they met in last season’s Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham.

For the Chiefs it was their maiden appearance in English rugby’s showpiece event, while for the Londoners running out at Rugby HQ has become somewhat of a pastime in recent years.

Steenson admits lessons were learned in the aftermath of that defeat, adding: “For sure lessons were learnt that day. It was a big crowd, a big competition and it was a big learning experience for all of us. Sarries had obviously been there before and we’re used to it, but I think we took a lot from the whole day.

“This weekend will be different, though. We’ve not talked too much about last season, it’s more the fact this is our first home game of the season and as a squad we’re really looking forward to it. The fact it happens to be Saracens is irrelevant, last year has gone now. We’ve got a few new faces, a new squad as such, so we have to be ready for them.”

Tickets for Sunday’s game are still available either online via www.exeterchiefs.co.uk or through the Trading Post, which is open Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 4:30pm.

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