Skinner relishing derby showdown
By Mark Stevens
Sam Skinner says Exeter Chiefs must use last Saturday’s 43-13 victory over Wasps as the springboard for a powerful conclusion to the current Gallagher Premiership season.
The defending champions maintained their top two placing with a destructive second half showing against the Midlanders, who despite leading 13-10 at the break, were than unable to hold the power game of Rob Baxter’s side.
With just a handful of games left in the regular season - starting with Friday night’s trip to league leaders Bristol Bears - Scottish international Skinner says the time has come for the Chiefs to start ramping up their performances.
“The Wasps performance is like a minimum standard for us now,” said Skinner. “We know where we are as a team and what we are capable of, but it’s up to us to keep pushing other teams to see if they can try and stay with us.
“The first half was a real tussle, pretty attritional, but we didn’t panic and we backed ourselves to come through. You saw with what we did in the second half, how we got our rewards for doing the hard work in the first half.”
More of the same will be needed in their latest top-flight outing against the Bears, who sit 12 points clear of the Chiefs at the summit of the Premiership table.
“It’s going to be another huge game,” added Skinner. “Beating Wasps was a great start for us, but these next few weeks are massive in terms of what we want to do. Last weekend result has given us a good foundation from which to build, but we know there are still a few work-ons.
“Things like our discipline and being more ruthless, they are both things we can get better at, but we’re in a good place and we want to being chasing the trophy.”
Having been part and parcel of Scotland’s Six Nations Championship campaign, the former Exeter University forward has been away from Sandy Park for a number of weeks this season.
However, he says the return of the international stars in recent weeks will only add to the quality on offer to Baxter as the Chiefs look to record back-to-back title wins.
“We’ve got a fully-fit squad right now and the competition is fierce,” he continued. “We’re in a great place as a squad, more is high, and we’re all just focused on doing our jobs and enjoying the ride.
“For everyone, the last year has been particularly tough, so as players we know we’re lucky to be doing what we do. Personally, I can’t wait for fans to come back, so we’re going to push ourselves as hard as we can to make sure everyone enjoys themselves.”