Full-back Simon Hammersley says Newcastle Falcons will have to exhibit patience in both defence and attack on Sunday when they host Aviva Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs.
The Yorkshireman is part of a Falcons side keen to kick on from their December clean sweep, Newcastle winning five from five during a calendar month which has left them placed fifth in the league and unbeaten in both cups.
The Kingston Park club took a four-try bonus point from their Devon defeat when the two teams met back in September, and Hammersley is keen for more in Sunday’s re-match.
“In a way Exeter aren’t your stereotypical northern hemisphere team,” said the England Saxons tourist.
“They play more of a Super Rugby style game where it’s about keeping the ball for long periods of time, they’ve built that brand and really bought into it but they do give you opportunities, and we believe we can test them.
“It’s always good to test yourself against the best and Exeter are a side who are playing great rugby at the moment. They’ve pretty much dominated the Premiership for the last couple of years, they’re going to keep the ball for long periods of time and the key for us is having patience in both attack and defence.
“We know we’re going to have to defend a lot because that’s how they play the game, so it’s about sticking to our defensive systems and then striking through our game-breakers when we have possession. It’s definitely an opportunity for us and, as good as Exeter are, we’re approaching it with a great deal of confidence.
“We feel like we’ve got our mojo back a bit, our big ball-carriers are getting over the gain line and our backs are striking wider out. Our nine and ten are controlling things and we have a nicer balance to our game, so when Exeter are analysing us they’ll know we have a number of threats.”
Keen to take a big scalp during Sunday’s 3pm kick-off, Hammersley said: “We’ve had a reasonably good start to the season but some of the better teams have just come out on top in the games we’ve played against them.
“It could have been better, but I think we’d have taken fifth after playing every team once and London Irish twice. We were frustrated about how we played against Gloucester, a couple of our other home games against the top sides have passed us by and it’s all about taking our opportunities. We weren’t clinical enough in those games but it’s just little tweaks, and we’re starting to put some results together without probably quite firing on all cylinders.
“Northampton away was a bit of a turning point with getting a late winner, and we had a couple of good wins in Europe over Bordeaux and Dragons before playing Harlequins and Irish in the league. We’ve got a bit of a roll on as a result of those victories, and coming into the Exeter match we have a lot of confidence.
“In a way you’ve got nothing to lose when you play the champions and league leaders, but we’ve been finding ways to win games and it becomes a habit. We’re not there yet and nobody thinks for a second we’re the finished article, but we’re making progress and we have huge competition for places.
“Nobody can get complacent because there’s a queue of people behind you who are more than capable of taking your spot, we have great options in every position and you have to be right on your game.”
Tickets for Sunday’s visit of Exeter Chiefs are available by calling 0871 226 6060 or clicking here.