Dave Dennis says he and his Exeter Chiefs team-mates will need to be at their best if they are to secure Anglo-Welsh Cup glory against Bath at Kingsholm this Sunday (3pm).
The Australian marked his return to competitive action for the first time in five months last weekend as he helped the Chiefs overcome Newcastle Falcons 20-17 in a hard-fought encounter at Sandy Park.
Down 17-7 at the break, young fly-half Joe Simmonds spearheaded the Exeter revival, producing a man-of-the-match display that ensured the Chiefs booked a fourth successive final appearance in the competition.
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It was a notable scalp for the Devonians against an in-form Falcons outfit, but Dennis knows they will need to be even better to overcome their Westcountry rivals in the season’s first major final.
“We played well in the first half, but we hurt ourselves with turnovers,” said Dennis, who was playing for the first time since rupturing his bicep against Leicester Tigers back in September.
“We knew Newcastle would be good at the breakdown – which they were – and they are a good counter-attack side, who can hurt you if given the chance. Once we sharpened up after the break, we held onto the ball a lot more and we turned our possession into points and snuck the win at the end.”
Now, the 32-year-old Aussie international is hoping to play his part again as the Chiefs look to overcome Bath, who booked their place in the final with a narrow home win over Northampton Saints.
“That was my first game in five months, so it was good to get out there and blow away a few of the cobwebs,” said Dennis. “We know the performance wasn’t perfect, but we dug deep to grind out a result against what was a very good Newcastle team.”
Dennis was one of 14 changes the Chiefs made to their starting line-up from the previous week against Saracens – and the former Waratahs forward said it underlined the strength in depth that exists within the current squad.
“The depth of our squad is amazing here,” he added. “We knew we needed a strong team and although the guys haven’t played together for a while, eventually we found our groove and played some really good rugby.
“That said, I think we all know we can be a lot better next week against Bath.
“It’s like the Westcountry Bermuda Triangle – Bath v Exeter at Kingsholm, so it should be a great occasion, not just for us as players, but for all the supporters going as well. It’s an important week for the club but, as I said, we need to be better. We’ll recover well this week, train hard and work hard to try and get that first piece of silverware for the season.”