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Winning start for Turner at Chiefs

Lachie Turner insists it’s "onwards and upwards" for him after he made his Exeter Chiefs debut in Sunday’s Aviva Premiership clash with Northampton Saints at Sandy Park.

The Australian international was a late call-up at full-back in place of the injured Phil Dollman, but he certainly didn’t look out of place on his first outing as he helped Rob Baxter’s side move to the top of the table following their 20-12 victory.

Five penalties from the boot of fly-half Gareth Steenson and a second half try from winger Olly Woodburn proved enough for the Devon club, who had earlier trailed 12-3 at the break following tries from Lee Dickson and Ken Pisi, the latter converted by JJ Hanrahan.

In what was a notable scalp for the Chiefs, Sunday’s success not only ensured they remained firmly on course for a first-ever appearance in the end of season play-offs, but it allowed them to gain revenge for an 8-3 defeat by the Saints at Franklin’s Gardens back on New Year’s Day.

For Turner, though, it was a positive first outing and the 28-year-old back is keen to play his part for his new club between now and the end of the season.

When asked post-match if it was a 'dream debut', the Sydney-born flyer replied: "I don’t know about a dream debut – we made it hard for ourselves in that first half – but I am so proud to be part of this gutsy team and gutsy club.

"I’ve sat on the sidelines for a month and watched the team go well, so to get out there today and fight like we did in the second half was gutsy and I am proud to be a part of it."

In what was a testing opening 40 minutes for the Chiefs, it didn’t take long for the home side to implement a few tweaks to their game plan in the second half, eventually suffocating their rivals with some powerful offensive play.

"We were running into a pretty stiff breeze in the first half and I think we made it tough for ourselves in term of executing with ball in hand," explained Turner. "In the second half we executed a lot better and we had a lot more pace in our game, which in turn made it a lot harder for the Saints to stick with us.

"We were able to build pressure and that allowed us to score 17 points in the second half, so a 17-0 turnaround was very pleasing."

With master marksman Steenson on form from the kicking tee and his fellow backs also looking in sharp form, Turner admitted it was a decent first run-out in Exeter colours for himself.

"When you have got guys like Steeno and Sladey as well, who gives us that left-foot option, Shorty on the wing who is a great communicator – it all makes it easier for me, so happy days," he added.

Exeter’s 12th league win lifted them to the summit of the Premiership, leapfrogging defending champions Saracens who went down to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in the day’s later kick-off.

This Saturday, however, the two are set to lock horns in battle at Allianz Park in a game which is already being talked up in both camps.

"Today’s win was a real big one and in terms of points on the ladder, it opens things up a bit and gives us some breathing space from the guys chasing us," said Turner, who has previously played Super Rugby for both the Waratahs and the Reds, as well as in France for RC Toulon.

"When we come in on Tuesday I think we’ll be pretty happy with the result and where we are sitting on the ladder. It is pleasing for the buys and I know the win meant a lot for them.

"It’s onwards and upwards from here and I am looking forward to the next round. Hopefully Phil will be ready and we’ll have everyone back out on deck and we’ll see what happens from there.  Saracens is a very tough ask, but we’ll enjoy the week first. We’ll go and recover and make sure we are all in a good state to attack next Saturday."
 

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