This time last year Sam Simmonds was the toast of Sandy Park, his last-gasp score in a semi-final victory over Saracens elevating him to cult status among the Exeter Chiefs supporters.
Twelve months on, it’s young brother Joe Simmonds creating the headlines as the reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions advanced into a third successive final.
The young playmaker – not for the first time this season – put in a fine display that belies his tender years scoring 19 points in Saturday’s 36-5 success over Newcastle Falcons.
Entrusted with the coveted No.10 shirt ahead of Gareth Steenson, the club’s record points-scorer, Simmonds did not disappoint as he marshalled his team-mates past the Falcons.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 23, 2018
Simmonds will now hope to lead the Chiefs charge against the Londoners, who booked their place in English rugby’s showpiece event with an impressive home win against Wasps at Allianz Park.
Having soaked up the big-game atmosphere as a travelling reserve in last season’s final, Joe has made no secret of the fact that he would love to mastermind the Chiefs grand plan in the capital.
“Last year I was one of the travelling reserves, so it’s a bit crazy to think that next week I could hopefully be involved in the final,” he said. “I’ve never played at Twickenham before.”
But while the younger Simmonds has yet to survey the hallowed turf at close hand, brother Sam has already trampled his way around pretty much every inch of the place, both for club and country.
Watching Sam – who was named the Land Rover Discovery of the Season at the annual Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards – take his game to new heights has made Joe himself look to follow suit.
“It definitely pushed me on,” he said. “Sam has played for England as well and I want to too. He has played so well and got the rewards for it. I want to do the same and not get left behind.”
“My dad and stepmum have just gone away for three months. They are in Spain at the moment, so they’ll have to book flights back home now.”
Meanwhile, Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter, who has trusted Joe to start in six of the last seven league games, started just four starters from last May’s final at the weekend.
🏆 Champions vs Challengers 💫@ExeterChiefs vs @Saracens.
Let the Final Battle commence 💥#AvivaPremFinal tickets are going fast. Get them while you can: https://t.co/h9JkQTXHfV pic.twitter.com/LlW13RH61E
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 22, 2018
“A mark of how impressed we’ve been with him is that we selected him in the semi-final,” he said.
“This was a big game not just for Joe but a huge game for this rugby club to get to another final. On form, he’s holding his place and his performances are meriting him being there.
“In most clubs if you said there would be 11 players missing from a Premiership-winning team they would be in panic. They’d think the world had fallen down around their ears.
“So yes, we can say we’ve experienced getting to finals but also we’re trying to create a team that wants to go out and win it again.
“The crucial thing year-on-year is to build your next team and not try to cling on to the glories of another past time.”