Slade delighted to see fans return

slade falcons try.jpg
Exeter Chiefs centre Henry Slade scores the first of his two tries during Sunday's Gallagher Premiership victory over Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park. Picture: Getty Images

By Mark Stevens

Henry Slade says it was ‘fantastic’ to have fans back inside Sandy Park as Exeter Chiefs maintained their push for home advantage in next month’s Gallagher Premiership play-offs.

Welcoming a crowd of just over 3,000 for the visit of Newcastle Falcons, the defending champions turned on the style as they ran out comfortable 74-3 victors in Round 20.

England international Slade led the charge for the Devonians, producing a man-of-the-match display that included two of their 12 tries scored on the day.

It also ensured Slade had a happy conclusion to the week, having come under-fire just days earlier for comments he made to a national newspaper over his views on the Covid-19 vaccination.

“I’ve had a bit of a tough week, but it’s done now and I’ve had some nice messages from people,” he said. “For me, it was great to be out there and playing in front of the fans again. The noise the crowd brought was just unbelievable.”

Roared on by the first fans inside Sandy Park since last December, the Chiefs wasted little time in setting out their stall. Indeed, they led 31-3 at the break and by the close had doubled that tally, creating a record winning margin for themselves in the top-flight.

“Having built a bit of a lead, we could easily have sat off and just gone into game management,” explained Slade. “Instead, we kicked on because we want to test ourselves. To put 70 points on any side in the Premiership is fantastic and it’s put us in a good position for these last few weeks.”

Next up for the Chiefs is Sunday’s trip to Northampton Saints, a side the gifted centre knows will pose a creditable threat on home soil.

“It’s always a tough place to go,” he warned. “Whenever you go there, you’re going to be tested and that’s what we’re expecting this week. For us, though, the key is to keep performing each week.

“Our aim is to get that home semi-final and to do that we have to keep winning. It’ll be great to give that opportunity to come back for another home game.”

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