Dennis revved up for semi-final
By Mark Stevens
Dave Dennis insists it will be “do or die” for Exeter Chiefs ahead of their Aviva Premiership semi-final encounter against Newcastle Falcons this Saturday (3:30pm).
Having topped the standings at the end of the regular season by eight points, the defending champions know that will count for very little if they don’t then perform against Dean Richards’ men at a packed out Sandy Park.
Whereas this will be a third successive home semi-final for the Chiefs, the Falcons will be tasting last four action for the first time and Aussie international Dennis is aware of the threat they pose.
“Newcastle deserve to be in the top four, they’ve had a fantastic season and they are a strong team, who score lots of points,” he said. “They have threats all over the park, so we know what is coming at us come that semi-final.”
Equally, though, the Chiefs have been the stand-out performers in English rugby’s top tier this season and with only one blemish on their home record in the league - that was against Worcester Warriors back in February - the former Waratahs forward is hoping home advantage can again play it’s part for his side.
“It’s fantastic to play at home, it’s where we feel most comfortable,” he added. “The support we get is fantastic, home and away, and really does help us as players. As I’ve said before, playing at a sold out Sandy Park, there is no better place to play.
“The semi-final is going to be a huge game for us. Having home advantage is ever so important, but now it’s knockout rugby, it’s do or die, so we know we need to perform against a strong Newcastle side.
“We’ve done well so far to achieve what we have, but there is no point committing to a long season, 22 regular games, and then put your foot on the break. This is the important end of the season, so our attitude has to be right and we have to push on and try and win that semi-final.”
In his last outing against Harlequins, Dennis - who has won 18 caps for the Wallabies - gave a timely reminder to the Exeter coaching staff about his own on-field talents, scoring two tries in their 41-17 victory at The Stoop.
“That’s a bit of rarity, it doesn’t tend to happen that often,” joked Dennis, who was promoted to skipper the side against Harlequins after team-mate Don Armand failed a fitness test.
“Don had a bit of a niggle, but he’ll be alright for the semi. For all of us, though, you have to take your opportunities when they come along. The strength in depth we have within the squad is fantastic and I think come the semi-final, we’ll have pretty much everybody available. That’ll mean it will be a tough couple of weeks in training for those trying to get that spot in the side.”