Competition for places within Chiefs is driving up standards

Mark Stevens
Authored by Mark Stevens
Posted Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - 2:52pm

Shaun Malton insists competition for places within the Exeter Chiefs squad is helping to drive up standards week by week.

The South African hooker got his first taste of Aviva Premiership action this season, coming off the bench to score one of his side's five tries in their 31-17 victory over Wasps at Sandy Park.

His touchdown, coupled with scores for Olly Woodburn (2), Dave Dennis and Don Armand, were the key highlights in another polished performance from the champions, who remain in pole position after four rounds of the season.

Despite a lengthy injury list, Exeter's Director of Rugby Rob Baxter has not been afraid to utilise his options to the full during the opening weeks of the campaign, thrusting any one of a number of players into the heat of battle.

However, it seems whoever is entrusted with a role within the match-day 23, they are stepping up to the plate and delivering the kind of displays that helped Devon's finest go all the way last season.

"Every day we come in it's a challenge for all of us," explained Malton. "We've got a massive squad, all of whom are pushing for the same goal, but everyone is putting pressure on one another to perform. Even in training, it's very competitive, but that's how we like it and it's helping push us forward."

Sunday's victory over Wasps not only allowed the Chiefs to pick off one of their arch rivals, but it ensured they were given the perfect lift ahead of this weekend's coming trip to Leicester Tigers.

Widely regarded as one of the toughest away-days on the seasonal calendar, Malton says the Chiefs will head to the East Midlands in bullish mood having accrued three successive try bonus victories.

"We'll come in on Tuesday, review this game fully, but then move onto Leicester," added the all-action hooker. "All week we had built up steadily for the Wasps game and it will be the same next week. We talked about what we wanted to do, the game we wanted to play, and we took that out onto the field.

"You could see from the first five minutes how pumped the boys were. I remember saying to the guys alongside me on the bench, we've still got 35 minutes to go, but it was just five minutes of continuous pressure and eventually it took it's toll on them."

In what was an impressive first half display from the champions, the Chiefs had already accrued the try bonus thanks to touchdowns from Woodburn, Dennis and Armand.

Malton entered the fray early in the second period, but it didn't take the former Nottingham man long to make his mark, burrowing over from close range for his first-ever Premiership score.

"It was 50m out, wasn't it?" joked Malton. "Seriously, it was great to go over for my first Premiership try. Stu [Townsend] popped it up for me and all I had to do was just drive over."

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