Francis finally breaks his duck
By Mark Stevens
It may have taken seven years and 120 first-team games, but at last Tomas Francis is an Exeter Chiefs try-scorer.
The Welsh international finally broke his scoring duck as Rob Baxter’s maintained their top two placing in the Gallagher Premiership with a powerful 43-13 victory over Wasps at Sandy Park.
Francis grabbed the fifth of seven tries for the Chiefs, who overcame a 13-10 half time deficit to run in 33 unanswered points in a dominant second half display.
The victory not only helped secure a crucial five-point haul, but also provided the perfect pick-me-up in the wake of Exeter’s European exit at the hands of Leinster just seven days earlier.
Naturally, the 28-year-old - who is set to leave Devon at the end of the season to join the Ospreys - was all smiles come the final whistle.
“It was a 50-yard dash, I side-stepped the full-back and chipped it through,” he joked when asked to detail his maiden touchdown. “No, it was just a standard pick-and-go. Normally I’m the latter who helps people over, but the boys were calling for me to pick and luckily I converted it!”
As he emerged from the mass of bodies to take the acclaim of his fellow forwards, Francis even resorted to using the famous ’Toot Toot’ celebration that former Chiefs team-mate and friend Thomas Waldrom would do when he scored.
No doubt Waldrom will be sending a congratulatory message to his former ‘Cookie Club’ member in the coming days, but for now Francis was keen to highlight the importance of this latest win.
“We knew we had to park last week and move forward,” he added. “We’ve talked this week that these next two games would help define our season. This one is done against Wasps and now we’ve got a six-day turnaround to get up for Bristol.
“That’s going to be another huge game for us. They beat us down here earlier in the season and we feel like we owe them one. The Premiership is all we’ve got left now, so we’ve got to front up each week and show the rest of the competition how much we want to defend our title.”
In what was an evenly-contested first half against Wasps, it was the power play of the Chiefs that came to the fore in the second period as they flexed their muscles to deadly effect.
“We knew we had worked hard in that first half, the stats were right up there and it was a fast game,” explained Francis. “They had boys taking a knee, so we knew as long as we kept our foot on the pedal - and that we were more ruthless - the tries would come, and that’s what happened in the end.”
With table-topping Bristol Bears next on the agenda this Friday night, Francis is well aware that the season is reaching the business end, particularly with just six rounds left in the regular season and, hopefully, some play-off games to follow.
The York-born forward admitted recently that leaving the Chiefs was far from easy, particularly given the current state of the club and the squad, but with his own desire to add to his tally of international caps, he knew he would have to head to the Principality to extend that opportunity.
“I’ve not got long left with the boys, so you have to cherish every minute,” added Francis. “After seven years, there is not a lot of rugby left for me here personally, so I’m desperate that I go out on a high.”