By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs youngster Stuart Townsend admitted it was an “unreal experience” as he capped his first-ever Aviva Premiership start with a try in his side’s 34-15 victory over Leicester Tigers.
Given the number nine jersey for last Friday’s testing trip to Welford Road, the 21-year-old scrum-half did not disappoint in the heat of battle, producing an eye-catching display for Rob Baxter’s in-form side.
His first half try was one of four scored on the night by Devon’s finest as they not only maintained their top two placing in the league, but recorded a maximum haul of points for the first time at the home of the Tigers.
“It was pretty unreal,” said Townsend at the final whistle. “Leicester away on a Friday night, it doesn’t get much tougher than that, so to come away with a bonus point win is huge for the club and puts us in a great position moving forward.”
Exeter’s victory in the Midlands ensured the Chiefs remain firmly on course for the end of season play-offs and underlined the growing stature that the club now holds within the game, not just in this country, but much further afield as well.
“We’re really pushing to make the play-offs, so to get five points up here really pushes us up the table and puts us in a great position,” added Townsend, who was recalled to Sandy Park from his spell with the Cornish Pirates in the Championship following injuries to fellow half-backs Will Chudley and Dave Lewis.
For me to be playing and starting games in both Europe and the Premiership is like a dream come true for me, but hopefully it’s only the start of things for me and that I get more chances in the future.
“Coming to places like Leicester, who are one of the biggest clubs around, and playing in front of over 20,000 people, it’s a very special feeling. Obviously I’ve had to work hard to get here – and I’ll continue to do that moving forward – but just to experience moments like this is what you play the game for.
“The older guys within the squad have helped me a lot – not just in the games themselves, but in training as well. To have them pass on their knowledge and experience, it’s a big thing for someone like me and hopefully it will only improve my game in the future.”
Talking of the future, though, next on the agenda for Townsend and the Chiefs is this Sunday’s Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with visiting Harlequins (3pm), where a place in the final a week later is on offer for the victors at Sandy Park.
“Sunday’s another massive opportunity for us,” continued the Torbay-born back. “We’ve worked incredibly hard in the pool stages to get where we are, but now we’ve got an equally big game this weekend.
“We know from playing Harlequins earlier in the tournament that they will pose a big test, but hopefully we can make the most of home advantage and push hard for that final place.”
Tickets for Sunday’s last four showdown are still available either online by clicking here or through the Trading Post, which is open Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 4:30pm