Premiership semis: What they said


Exeter Chiefs and Wasps will battle it out for the Aviva Premiership title after dramatic victories over Saracens and Leicester Tigers in the semifinals.

And there were plenty of talking points following two absorbing last-four clashes. Here’s what was said.

Exeter Chiefs 18-16 Saracens

Exeter captain Gareth Steenson: “Saracens threw everything at us, which we knew they would. We had to get ourselves in the right part of the pitch to put a bit of pressure on. We got the opportunity, then Henry knocked the kick and the rest is history. We are in a much different place compared to last year. We have talked very much about being champions this year.

“Maybe last year, we were just happy to be in the final. A lot of people say you have to go through finals and lose them to put yourself in a good position. We’ve had some incredible days here, and with four minutes to go, it still felt like it was do-able. We were very calm. This squad has moved on, and we are very much driving ourselves to go and win the thing. There is no point in being in a final and not winning it.”

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall: “We had the game with two minutes left, but then came one of the great kicks of all time from Henry Slade. He puts that kick anywhere else, and I would be sitting here talking about one of the great wins and fights from a team who were a bit tired.

“Of course we are sad, and it is painful, but we can be unbelievably proud of that second-half performance. Well done to Exeter. For them to reach the final in successive seasons is tremendous. They were outstanding in the second 20 minutes of the first half. It felt like we were hanging on, and we looked tired, but what I am most proud about is what happened in the second half.”

Wasps 21-20 Leicester Tigers

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young: “I’d like to lie to you and say it doesn’t matter if we win or lose next week and we just want to enjoy it. But although we do want to enjoy it, we really want to win too.

“Exeter are a quality outfit, a quality club, and if they are the better team on the day I’ll be the first to shake their hands. First and foremost I just really want us and our supporters to go there and just enjoy the occasion.

“This result is massive thanks to the owner Derek Richardson, who has really got behind this club. There weren’t many other volunteers at the time when he took over to be honest.Investment is one thing, but his ambition, his drive, that has taken this club forward both on and off the field.”

Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor on Tom Youngs being given a standing ovation from all supporters: “It’s indicative of the character of the guy, he’s led from the front this whole season, and his whole career to be fair.

“To be dealing with his personal situation with [his wife] Tiff and her illness [terminal cancer], and still to be fronting up, leading the guys and delivering over and above what you expect from any other captain I’ve been involved with, it’s phenomenal. He’s a special player; a special bloke.

“We fought our way back into this game, we turned it into a bit of an arm wrestle, then managed to get in front and battled really well. It was a fantastic effort, but just not quite enough. The resilience and the character of that group, it was out there today in spades.”