By Mark Stevens
Lachie Turner believes Exeter Chiefs are showing the kind of character needed to push them onwards and upwards in their quest to lift this season’s Aviva Premiership crown.
The Aussie international marked his return to top flight action by claiming a brace of tries in Friday night’s 39-26 win away to Harlequins at The Stoop.
Turner dotted down twice alongside further scores from Dave Ewers, Michele Campagnaro and Henry Slade to ensure Rob Baxter’s side created Premiership history by claiming the try bonus point for the seventh successive game.
The win not only maintained Exeter’s impressive unbeaten record in the league to 13 games, but kept them firmly on course to secure one of the top two spots in the standings – and thus keep them on course to have home advantage in the end of season play-offs.
“It was a gutsy performance from both sides,” said the 29-year-old. “Quins could have faded in that second half, but they stuck in there, pushed us for the full eighty and got that try right at the end.
“That said, it was an 80-minute performance from us and it’s probably what we’ve been missing in the last few weeks, even though we have been winning games.
“The character in this side is amazing and it shows on night’s like this. In terms of what I call that top two inches, this is one of the toughest teams I’ve ever been part of. Harlequins tested us, they bashed us and they gave it to us for the whole 80, but we dug deep and were willing to go to those dark places to ensure we got the win. At this time of year, those are the qualities you want to be seeing from your side.”
With little to choose between either side at the break, it took until the final quarter for the Chiefs to finally deliver the telling blow. Turner’s double, plus a similar chip-and-chase effort from Slade, floored the Londoners without trace and provided the breathing space for the Devonians to see out the remainder of an absorbing contest.
“We are a team that when we play well, scoring isn’t an issue for us,” added Turner, who was a late replacement into the starting XV for the injured Phil Dollman. “Over the last few weeks we’ve not quite had that 80-minute performance and we’ve allowed the opposition to come into the game and push us.
“Tonight, however, we got that 80-minute performance and overall we were much more polished, so that’s really pleasing and it gives us something really good to work with moving forward.”
Next up for the Chiefs will be the visit of Northampton Saints to Sandy Park on April 29, followed by a final-day assignment against Gloucester at Kingsholm on May 6. After which, the play-offs begin for Baxter’s side, who have made no secret of their desire to make a swift return to Twickenham and a place in the end of season showpiece final.
Having made the final 12 months ago, going down narrowly to double winners Saracens, Turner says there is a real desire within the Exeter camp to get back to HQ and this time hopefully land the big prize.
“We learnt lessons from last year for sure,” he added. “Already we’ve seen some of the outcomes in the way we have played this year and the way we’ve attacked games. Losing the final is not something we’ve talked about massively, but as a group we know we have another great opportunity this year and that is what we are focused on right now.”