GOOD AFTERNOON LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND WELCOME TO SANDY PARK FOR THIS AFTERNOON’S GALLAGHER PREMIERSHIP RUGBY SEMI-FINAL ENCOUNTER AGAINST NORTHAMPTON SAINTS. WELCOME
What has been weeks and months in the planning, now comes down to an afternoon of rugby, the rewards of which will see the victors head to Twickenham in a week’s time to face either Saracens or Gloucester. For a fourth successive season, we find ourselves just a game away from reaching the showpiece event in the English rugby calendar. In what has been the most competitive Premiership season to date, to get to this stage – in the position we have – has once again taken a huge effort by everyone associated with the club, particularly Rob, his staff and the squad itself. This is, however, the time where we need to make that final push for glory. Northampton, as they showed earlier in the season – and again here at Sandy Park just a week ago – will pose a significant challenge and we know we will need to be at our very best if we are to prosper further. Our experience from featuring in recent semi-finals will no doubt be of benefit this afternoon, but so too will be home advantage, so I call on all of you to make yourselves heard and roar the team onwards and upwards. As I’ve mentioned before, our support is the envy of many and this season this has been further highlighted by not only a record-breaking year of season ticket sales, but also that today’s game marks our 11th sell-out of the season, taking our average attendance for the season over 12,000. To have such backing is pivotal to our progress, on and off the field, and I know the part all of you play each and every game we play. Equally, we must applaud the efforts of the team itself who – for a second successive season – have again finished top of the Premiership after 22 rounds. To be top of the pile, eight points better off than Saracens in second, underlines the desire our lads have shown throughout the course of the campaign to once again savour another Twickenham triumph.
That said, finishing first at the end of the regular season wins you nothing. It gives you an advantage, including today’s home semi-final, but it’s knockout rugby from here on in and we know we can ill afford any kind of slip-up. Standing in the path of our route back to the capital are Northampton, who themselves have enjoyed an excellent season under the stewardship of Chris Boyd. The strides they have made this season are there for all to see and having tackled them just a week ago, we know the challenge they bring this afternoon. I’ve no doubt that today’s match will live up to all of the pre-match billing and that both sides will serve up a cracking fixture for all of you here in attendance, as well as those tuning in around the world. Finally, as this is our last home game of the season, can I once again thank everyone for their support across the season, both home and away. To see the players, coaches, staff and supporters mixing in huge numbers at the final whistle last week, following what was a big win for us, was fantastic to see and shows how we are all in this together.
Regards, TONY ROWE
OBE, H N LLD CHAIRMAN & CHIEF EXECUTIVE EXETER RUGBY CLUB
EXETER CHIEFS VS NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
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