Exeter flanker Tom Johnson wants to cap off a fine season for not only himself, but also the Chiefs as they wrap up their inaugural Aviva Premiership campaign at home to London Wasps on Saturday.
With Sandy Park set for another sell-out crowd, the all-action forward admits he and his team-mates are looking to produce one final big performance which, if they are successful by more than eight points, will guarantee Rob Baxter’s side of eighth place in the top flight.
Buoyed by their recent away-day success at Sale Sharks, a result which ended a four-game losing streak for the Devon club, the Chiefs hope home advantage will again prove crucial in this the third meeting of the two clubs this term. The Chiefs won the first encounter in the LV= Cup 29-9 at Sandy Park back in November, but they came unstuck in the Premiership clash at Adams Park in December when they went down 24-12.
Johnson insists that not only do the Chiefs want to avenge that result and claim eighth spot, but they are desperate to put in a big display on home soil after they lost to Saracens in their last Sandy Park run-out. “We really want to do something for the crowd in our game against Wasps because we felt we let them down against Saracens, so we want to make up for it,” said Johnson, who joined the Chiefs in 2007 from Coventry.
“Bath gave Wasps a real hiding at Twickenham not long ago and we beat them in the cup, so they have a lot to play for. We are a highly-motivated bunch of guys though and, when it comes down to it, we always want to win for the club. Having said that, it’s been such an intense season that we are all looking forward to having some time off soon. Because we went up quite late last season with the play-offs and everything, it feels like we’ve played two seasons back-to-back, so a few weeks off over the summer will be great.”
The 28-year-old has been one of the stand-out performers for the Chiefs this season and his on-field efforts have been recognised by the Premiership, who have nominated for the Gatorade Premiership Rugby Performance of the season.
Johnson was put forward for the award after scoring one of Exeter’s three tries in the 24-19 win over Sale Sharks at Sandy Park in November, whilst the judging panel also confirmed he was unfortunate not to find his name on the player-of-the-season shortlist. “It was a little bit unexpected to be honest,” Johnson said.
“I think it probably has more to do with the team’s performance on the day and the work of the club, so I see it more as a team nomination than one for me personally. I don’t actually remember too much about the performance itself other than scoring, so it was strange to see them pick that game. But it was a must-win game for us so it was a great win and a good performance by everyone involved.”
Johnson is set to attend the Aviva Premiership Rugby End of Season Awards night in London along with head coach Rob Baxter, who himself is in the running for the Director of Rugby accolade. “Rob definitely deserves his nomination and all the praise and awards he gets because he has been fantastic this season – he’s very organised and knows what he wants,” added Johnson.