100 Not Out for Dollman
By Mark Stevens
Phil Dollman is hoping to crown his century of Premiership games for the Exeter Chiefs in style tomorrow as the Devon club look to overcome rivals Leicester Tigers.
Welshman Dollman is the third member of the so-called ‘Exeter Originals’ to achieve the feat, following in the stud marks of team-mates Gareth Steenson and Matt Jess, both of whom line-up alongside him at Welford Road.
Together the trio have played integral roles in helping Rob Baxter’s side not only establish themselves at English rugby’s top table, but now forge themselves as a genuine title contenders.
With the Chiefs currently second in the standings, just four points adrift of leaders Saracens with a game in hand, the 30-year-old back is hoping his latest milestone for the club will be rewarded with a big performance in the East Midlands.
“We were just talking about those first couple of Premiership games and it doesn’t seem that long ago, definitely not 100 games ago,” said Dollman, who joined the Chiefs in 2009 from the Newport-Gwent Dragons. “It’s just flown by, so it must mean I have enjoyed myself and it’s nice to reach a milestone like that.”
Ironically, Dollman’s first away game in the Premiership back in 2010 was away to the Tigers, where he marked the occasion with two tries in a 37-27 defeat.
For long periods of that contest the newly-promoted Chiefs looked as though they were going to follow up their opening day win over Gloucester by claiming another notable scalp.
However, the Tigers - defending a 34-game unbeaten run on home soil - had other ideas and rallied during the second half to eventually power past the league’s latest additions.
For Dollman, though, it was a game that sticks long his his memory, adding: “It was a great day, albeit the end result. We were excited about going up to Leicester and we put in a good performance on the day. We probably shocked them a bit, but we didn’t quite have the strength to finish them off and they showed us a thing or two come the end.
“That said, we learnt from games like that and we’ve pushed on year on year. It’s good to look back now to see where we were then and where we are now.”
Dollman continued: “It’s a big difference between then and now. Back then there was no pressure on us and everybody expected us to fail, so we just went up there to prove ourselves and throw a bit of caution to the wind. These days it’s a bit different, we’re a more rounded side and the quality we have within the squad, we expect to go there and put in a good performance.”
Certainly the visitors will travel in confidence mood having recorded back-to-back victories over London Irish and Bath in recent weeks. And although it wasn’t quite the free-flowing play of earlier in the season, Dollman insists having the winning formula is all that matters.
“They were big wins for us and we need to keep winning games like that,” he said. “We know we can’t play expansive and pretty rugby every week, but we’ve still come out with the victory at the end of it. Those types of wins are just as important and we’ve got to concentrate on performing like that every week.”
The Tigers, though, will be no pushovers and Dollman is duly cautious of what lies in store, adding: “If you get a win up there, you deserve a win, that’s all you can about Leicester. You know every time you go there they won’t give you an easy win and they are always strong in front of their home crowd.
“They play a good game and they look to test us right across the pitch from minute one, so it’s up to us to match that and then look to put our own game on them.”