The season run-in is a succession of knockout games for Exeter Chiefs as they compete on two fronts and lock Mitch Lees admits he is relishing a dream first season at the club.
Currently embroiled in a nip-and-tuck battle for the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals, the Chiefs this week turn their attention back to Europe and the small matter of a European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final.
It will be the Newcastle Falcons who come to Sandy Park on Saturday night and will face a Chiefs side that have lost their last two to fall from second to fifth in the league standings.
A top-four spot is still a solitary point away, indeed the standings are so tight that Saracens in second are only three points clear meaning a home semi-final is still up for grabs.
And with European matters on the table this week, Lees admits that he and his teammates cannot afford any slip-ups between now and the end of the season.
“The top of the Premiership is very tight,” said the 26-year-old.
“Every game can cost you a spot so we want to push and win every single one to give us the best chance of making the semis of the Prem and also in Europe.
“This weekend is a big game for the club, a quarter-final in Europe is huge.
“Our last two defeats have both been a bit unlucky, there is nothing to worry about and we are full of energy to
go out there.
“Especially at home with a night game and the Sky Sports cameras, we don’t have that very often.
“Two years on the bounce, the Chiefs trying to make it to a new cup final, this is big for the club and big for the players.”
Formerly of London Welsh, Lees has enjoyed a stellar debut season at Sandy Park, making 13 Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances.
Lees came off the bench the last time the Falcons came to Exeter in the league in February as the Chiefs handed down a 46-17 beating.
But Lees insists they will be facing a very different Falcons side on Saturday night.
“We definitely expect a reaction (to the 46-17 defeat), they are a good side,” he added.
“But we are focusing on ourselves, pushing our standards up high so when we do run out on the pitch in the first 40 minutes we will be able to take it like we did that game, to run at them and throw our game at them rather than wait and expect something from them.
“Having a home quarter-final will be huge, especially for them it’s a far way to go. We should have close to a sell out or a sell out crowd, the fans are a big factor in how we perform on the pitch.
“Our fans are some of the best in England, they really show it at home and away.”
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