Calum Green says Newcastle Falcons are determined to make the most of their moment, having reached a first ever Aviva Premiership semi-final.
The Falcons travel to Exeter Chiefs on Saturday after their highest regular-season finish in 20 years, lock-forward Green having played in all but two of their 22 league matches.
“If you’d said at the start of the season that we’d be in this position there’d be people who probably couldn’t believe it,” said the Norfolk native, whose team finished fourth in the standings.
“We were aiming for top six so to get top four is a nice bonus, but now that we’re here we might as well go all the way.”
The Falcons are the surprise package of a remarkable Premiership season, Green topping the Opta stats for line-outs stolen and sitting second in the charts for line-outs won.
The 27-year-old said: “Once we were in and around the mix for the top four after Christmas we just thought ‘why not?’
“There was a big collective push to just keep winning every week and see where it would take us, but after losing away at Worcester we maybe thought that was the semi-finals out of reach. We had a good home win over Sale, and then it all came down to knowing we’d have to win at Leicester for the first time in 20 years.
“That was the match that got us here, and if we can win a game like that then there’s no reason why we can’t win at Exeter on Saturday.”
Green and his Falcons squad have full respect for a Chiefs side who are the reigning Premiership champions and regular-season top dogs, but it was Newcastle who won the last league meeting between the two clubs thanks to a 28-20 triumph in January.
“We’re ready, we’ve prepared really well and the whole squad is full of confidence,” he said. “We just want to give a performance which reflects the ability and desire within the group, and if we do that we’ll be happy.
“Exeter have built their club and their team very steadily from their promotion season, and it’s the model that most clubs would look to. I don’t think there’s any disgrace in saying we’ve looked to emulate that, and why wouldn’t you when it’s all built on a good local fan base, a thriving academy, a real team ethic and a couple of foreigners who bring the stardust?
“If you look at our squad and our club we’re not too dissimilar. Maybe they’re a few years ahead of us but we’re not in a bad place, and we’ll just see what happens when we go down there.
“I’m massively excited, and weeks like this are why you play the game. You have to make the most of them, enjoy them and give it absolutely everything on the day. We won’t get caught up in the moment, we’ll go all out for the win and I don’t see any reason why we can’t do it.”
Those precise battling qualities are what have put the Falcons into the semi-finals for their first time in the club’s history, Green saying: “It’s the desire and the want to keep in the fight which has got us to where we are.
“In previous years when we’ve gone 10 points down we probably would have thought it was out of our reach, but we’ve battled on and clawed our way back into games. We’ve had a few last-minute winners, which is always nice, and it shows how together we are as a squad that we can pull ourselves back.
“We’ve had our best away record in decades this season, probably the best away form in the entire league, so we can travel without fear. It’s definitely do-able on Saturday, of course it will be tough, but we’re a good enough team to go down there and turn them over.
“There’s no point getting into the top four if we’re just going to give up in the semi-finals. We might as well try and get to Twickenham, and if we physically apply ourselves we’ve got a good chance. Exeter like to move the ball around so we need to be ready for that, but when you’ve got game-breakers like Sinoti, Niki Goneva and the rest of the guys, anything can happen.”