Chiefs search for winning formula
Irish flyhalf Gareth Steenson admitted it was important for the Exeter Chiefs to rediscover their winning formula ahead of what is a crucial festive period for the club in the Premiership.
Winless in their five previous fixtures heading into last weekend, Rob Baxter's side not only defied the atrocious wintry conditions at Sandy Park, but also visiting Newcastle Falcons, to record their sixth victory in the top flight this term.
Steenson – back in the Chiefs line-up having missed the previous week's European Cup fixture with RC Toulon due to a shoulder injury – played his part in the success, kicking three penalties as well as converting Haydn Thomas' second half try in the 16-3 victory.
A delighted Steenson hailed the triumph which ensured the Devon club moved back into fifth spot in the current standings.
He said: "The results haven't been great for us the past few weeks, but the performances have been good. Saturday's performance was more about getting the win. The conditions were definitely tough out there and we were just delighted to come away with the four points."
With a howling gale at their backs during the first period, Steenson punished the Falcons with three penalties to give his side a slender 9-3 advantage at the interval. However, the talented playmaker felt he and his team-mates perhaps deserved more for their on-field endeavours.
"We were frustrated with how we went in the first half," added Steenson. "You can get bogged down by the fact you've got the wind at your back and you don't play as much rugby.
"It can be frustrating when you're not getting the scores, but all credit to Newcastle, they defended really well. We made a few line breaks but couldn't get across the line. Sometimes it's easier to play into the wind, especially the way we try to play, and it showed in the second half – when we had to hold onto the ball we could."
Although it was a much-needed return to winning ways for Devon's finest, Steenson admitted recent performances – albeit without the end results – had failed to dampen the mood within the Chiefs camp. He continued: "That's the way we're trying to play and we know what we're good at and we want to put that on opposition teams.
"You've got to play to your strengths and we like to play this particular game where we run with the ball and keep hold of it. It's something we're good at and it paid dividends in the second half on Saturday."
Next up for the Chiefs is this weekend's trip to Twickenham where Harlequins await in the now traditional 'Big Game' series. A capacity crowd of 80,000 is expected to descend on the home of English rugby for the game and Steenson says there is an air of excitement building ahead of kick-off.
"The big games just keep coming. It's been great for the fellas having Toulon back-to-back and the two big fixtures we had in the Premiership beforehand," he said. "It's nice to get a W here just before Christmas and give the supporters something to be proud of.
"Harlequins, we know, are a tough side, they're used to being in the top six fighting hard and they had a good couple of performances in the Heineken Cup. We've just got to focus on ourselves now over the Christmas period. We've got to get things right and we can look forward to what will be a big fixture at Twickenham.
"As a player you want to play in front of as many people as possible. For me it's probably not as important as some of the English fellas, but it's something we'll look forward to and it's great to have the Chiefs there again.
"It's a long time since the finals were played up there and it's good for the supporters as well. They've just come back from Toulon and now they've got a trip to headquarters. We've got to get our heads right and get ready for what's going to be a massive challenge."