Geoff Parling knows what it takes to be a winner, particularly in the Aviva Premiership, and today he will be helping lead the charge as Exeter Chiefs aim to maintain their lofty status against Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park (3pm).
Heading into Round 16 of the competition, the Devon club are sitting pretty in second place, just three behind leaders Saracens and five ahead of Leicester Tigers in third.
However, the 32-year-old forward knows this is the ‘business end’ of the season and results are even more important as club jockey for key positions at the end of the season.
For Parling and the Chiefs, though, the importance of this afternoon’s fixture has been clearly underlined by the England international.
“Don’t be happy with second in the table. Let’s push on and get first in the table and let’s not think about that pack behind us,” said Parling, who started his top flight career with the Falcons back in 2003.
“We have to look at what is in front of us and aim for that. I don’t want to sound negative, but out of the last five games, we have lost three. We have shown a lot of fight and got bonus points in those losses, but our form over those last five games isn’t good enough if we want to be a top-two team.
“The team have to get in the top four, but for me, it’s about finishing in the top two because you get that home semi-final and we are definitely good enough to do that and push on, so let’s look at where Sarries are, they are first, and we should aim for that.”
Back on home soil, where the Chiefs have only lost once in 14 months, Parling is backing Rob Baxter’s side to return to winning ways after last weekend’s 31-27 loss to the Tigers.
A disappointing first 40 minutes at Welford Road – one in which Parling was sent to the sin-bin for ten minutes – left the Chiefs with a huge mountain to climb. However, they rallied well after the break and were rewarded with a losing bonus point when Kai Horstmann crossed for a try in the final play of the game.
Parling added: “We didn’t really back ourselves in that first half. Obviously I got a yellow, which didn’t help things and like I say, it was pretty frustrating except for the last 30. To score some tries when we were that many points down was very good, but the main thing is that we lost the game and we are annoyed with that.”
Now the Falcons lie in wait and the Chiefs are relishing the challenge ahead.
“We would be itching to get out there anyway because it’s a home game at Sandy Park It is always a big occasion for us, no mater what competition it is in,” said Parling.
“It is a huge game, but especially after the frustrations of last week. I know we did well at the end and we showed a lot of fight and character to get that bonus point at the end, but there was a lot of frustration that we didn’t play as well as we could have done and we made mistakes.”
Having won all previous fixtures against the Falcons at Sandy Park, plus inflicting a heavy 41-3 loss on them back in November, the Chiefs will start as firm favourites for another victory. Parling, though, is well aware that it will be no walk in the park for Devon’s finest.
“I think when you watch that game again, for whatever reason, it didn’t look like they had much fight on the day. They have shown in general they have a good home record and won some decent games, but they are coming away from home and we will see what sort of side they put out with London Irish next week,” he continued.
“They will have some fight about them and guys that want to make an impression and when you are a that end of the table, you will scrap for absolutely everything, you’ve got nothing to lose, you’ll go out there and throw everything at it.
“In general, we play good at home and we always back ourselves. We always like playing at Sandy Park, so that definitely always helps.”