Nowell targeting big finish to the season
By Mark Stevens
Jack Nowell couldn’t hide his delight after he marked his first start of the season by helping the Exeter Chiefs to a crucial victory over Gallagher Premiership leaders Bristol Bears.
Toe surgery in the wake of last season’s double-winning success, followed by a hamstring tear in training, meant the Cornishman had to wait until earlier this month before he was able to make his competitive return.
A cameo off the bench in Exeter’s recent win over Wasps was followed by an 80-minute display as the Devonians cut the gap on the Bears with their 20-12 success at Ashton Gate last Friday.
In a dominant display from the defending champions, tries from Sam Skinner, Tom O’Flaherty and Jacques Vermeulen were the highlights with skipper Joe Simmonds adding the remainder of the points for the visitors.
Exeter’s success means they further cemented their top two place with just five rounds of the regular season remaining. However, Nowell insists there can be no let-up from himself or his team-mates as they set their sights on reclaiming their title come the end of June.
“It’s awesome to be back,” said the England and British & Irish Lions back. “I’ve missed the lads, I’ve missed playing. My lungs were burning out there come the end, but it’s awesome to get the win.”
In what has been a frustrating period of time for Nowell, his return to the fray could not have come at a better time for the Chiefs, who this week are recharging their batteries following their exit from the Heineken Champions Cup at the hands of four-time winners, Leinster Rugby.
“Obviously, we’re gutted not to be playing again this week in the Heineken Cup,” added Nowell. “That said, we’ve got to use the break as a positive. It will allows us all to rest up, get ourselves right and spend a bit of time with our families. However, the important thing is once we come back, we’re back fully focused and ready to really go after that end of the season.”
With basement club Worcester Warriors next on the agenda for the Chiefs on May 8, Rob Baxter’s side will be looking to continue their impressive run of form in the top-flight.
“Beating Bristol is a big result for us,” added Nowell. “They’ve been leading the way for most of the season, but I always say it, we just have to focus on ourselves. I thought the boys were class and it’s put us in a great position moving forward. Obviously, Bristol are still leading the way, but it’s giving us something to chase.
“For a lot of the season we’ve had boys away on international duty, but now they are all back and you can see we are really start to gel. We said before this game that we wanted to attack the game, which we did, and we’ll attack every other game because we want to get to another final.”