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OPINION: Gareth Steenson merits his recognition

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 02, 2014

By Nick Warren

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Gareth Steenson in action for Exeter Chiefs Picture: Pinnacle

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It was largely overshadowed in the defeat at Twickenham, but Gareth Steenson climbed another notch on Exeter Chiefs’ scoring charts last weekend.

The fly-half went past Andy Green to become the club’s second highest points scorer in league games.

The former Ulster youngster now has 1,087 points from 119 matches, compared to Green’s 1,085 from 133.

However, it will take another couple of seasons for him to get close to Tony Yapp’s club record tally of 1,526.

But as Yapp played all his time for Exeter in the second tier while Steenson is in his fourth campaign in the top flight, it is a fine achievement for the 29-year-old to score what he has.

So far he has amassed 579 points in the Premiership – almost double what anyone else has managed – from 63 outings.

The stats go someway to showing how far the former Ireland under-21 skipper has come since signing for the Chiefs in 2008.

Having found his opportunities limited in his native Northern Ireland, Steenson headed to England’s second tier in 2006, taking up a contract with Rotherham.

After helping the Titans finish second behind Yorkshire rivals Leeds that term, he headed south – a long way south – to join the Cornish Pirates.

His scoring exploits continued at the Recreation Ground in Camborne, including a 20-point haul against the Chiefs in a 30-23 win. He also bagged two tries in a 17-point return as the Pirates went down 39-29 at Sandy Park later that term before then Exeter head coach Pete Drewett snapped him up.

People who watched a lot of his displays for the Pirates tell me how much he has improved his all-round game from those days.

He has become more of a threat with ball in hand and also worked on his distribution. His well known area of weakness, defence, has also been improved greatly, with him making several try-saving tackles over the last year or so.

Steenson’s reputation as a prodigious kicker is well founded, but also ignores the others areas of his game.

One of those is his mental fortitude. He didn’t mope about when he suffered a bad knee injury in 2010, or when he lost his place in the team to Ignacio Mieres in 2011. Steenson has returned stronger for the experiences.

And Exeter could not play the expansive game they want to roll out without someone able to call the shots from fly-half.

With Henry Slade now putting pressure on his jersey, you can expect Steenson to continue to strive to improve his game over the coming months and seasons.

Exeter could do with their fly-half being on top of his game this weekend as they need a win at Wasps before they turn their attentions back to the two cups.

While their six defeats in the last seven matches have all been against decent teams – and four of them away from home – the lack of results is bound to have a negative affect on those involved at Sandy Park.

Another impressive Steenson display could lead Exeter to an important win against Wasps.

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