It’s been a long time coming, but the gloves finally come off this weekend with the phoney war of pre-season over and the Premiership Rugby kick-off finally upon us.
Sandy Park in Exeter is also one of The Tig’s favourite trips, and not just because of the size of the pasties, though that does come into it, especially with the long trip home in mind.
We’ve got some good memories from this corner of Devon, including some decent results over the years, though there have been some poor days too, including last year when Tigers trailed by three points at half-time but only added three more thereafter as the Chiefs piled up a bonus-point tally.
The Tig’s special Exeter memory, though, comes from a January day back in 2011.
It was the day Boris Stankovich captained Tigers for the first time. It was, sadly, in a losing cause in an Anglo-Welsh Cup tie, but Our Hero chose that afternoon to score his only try of the season.
The big moment came in the last minute of the game, too, which is pretty much unknown territory for starting props these days and, although you can’t imagine he’s watched it many times on video in the seven years since, our journey home was a lot more pleasant knowing we’d been there The Day Boz Scored.
Boris will be prowling the touchline this time, looking for Tigers to front-up against a Chiefs side who relish their record at Sandy Park and pride themselves on the platform provided by their forward pack.
Rob Baxter’s home side tend not to let rivals squirm free once they’ve got them in a grip. Premiership finalists in 2016, champions in 2017 and runners-up again last year after topping the table at the end of the season for the first time in their history, the Chiefs are as consistent as anyone in the league. As opening-day tests come, it is certainly a stiff one.
But with three of last season’s top four finishers to face in the opening three weeks of the season, Tigers know they have to put down a marker for the nine months to follow.