Steenson daring to dream of Premiership glory

Gareth Steenson is dreaming of a Premiership title

Over the years Gareth Steenson has enjoyed his fair share of magic moments in the colours of Exeter Chiefs.

Six years ago he was the darling of the Travelling Tribe on a wet and wild night in Bristol. On the weekend, the Irishman again lapped up the acclaim of the Devon public as he helped guide his side to a first-ever Aviva Premiership final next Saturday.

Since joining from the Cornish Pirates in 2008, the 32-year-old has become part of Sandy Park folklore, establishing himself not only as a firm fans’ favourite, but also the club’s leading points-scorer.

Against visiting Wasps, the Dungannon-born playmaker plundered a further 14 points to his seasonal tally, which earlier in the week had been rewarded with the Premiership’s much coveted Golden Boot crown.

Steenson, though, is a hugely driven character and always striving for more. On Saturday, he will be part of an Exeter squad looking to cap a a fairytale rise to the top.

Standing in their way will be a Saracens side, fresh from being crowned ‘Kings of Lyon’ in the European Champions Cup, and hell bent on ensuring they keep hold of their Premiership bragging rights for another year at least.

It will be a tough ask for Steenson and his team-mates, but it’s one they are clearly relishing.

“Of course we’re looking forward to it, it’s a final,” replied the Exeter fly-half when asked about the upcoming trip to English Rugby HQ. “This result has given us a real chance to do something. It’s been a good season so far and as Rob just said, we’ll enjoy the next few hours, but then come Monday we’ll show up here and prepare for what could the biggest game ever.”

Until now, the highlight of Steenson’s impressive career has been that memorable night at the Memorial Stadium where his 24-point haul that evening guaranteed the Devonians of mixing it with the elite of the English game for the first time.

Since then, he has continued to play a lead role in the development of the Chiefs, whose head coach Rob Baxter has crafted a potent mix of youth and experience to put the club in the position they find themselves today.

“Today’s result is right up there,” he continued. “When the boys got that penalty try right at the end, it was pure euphoria. Over the years we’ve had some really good days at the club and this one ranks up there. Obviously we’re delighted with the result and performance, even though there was the odd one or two mistakes out there.

“Conditions were always going to be tough, especially in that second half for us, but as I said we’re delighted to come through.”

Now with a week to get ready, Steenson is already looking ahead and inwardly plotting what he hopes will be the downfall of Saracens in the capital.

“We’ve played at Twickenham before with Big Game 6 and we’ve got guys in the squad that have played in finals before,” said Steenson. “It’s going to be a big experience for all of us, so we want to give ourselves the best possible chance.”

And Steenson believes having players within the Exeter ranks who have effectively ‘been there, done that’ when it comes to Finals Day will be imperative in the build-up.

“People like Geoff [Parling] will be key,” added the Exeter star. “All year he’s said there is no reason why we can’t go on and win this. This is a winning Lion saying that to you, so it’s huge for your confidence. He’s played with some of the best players in the world, yet he’s saying we’ve guys who are right up there here at the club.

“That has to give you a boost and it’s just filtered right through the squad. Take for example Harry Williams, he’d never played in the Premiership until this season, yet here is stepping up in the absence of international guys and producing the goods.

“For me, it shows what the club is all about. Guys who are here buy into the culture and what we want to achieve very quickly. Now we’re just 80 minutes away from the big one!”

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