Sam Simmonds credited his Exeter team-mates for propelling him into the Gallagher Premiership history books in a 31-12 victory over London Irish at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Simmonds ran-in a hat-trick to become the top-flight’s leading try scorer in a single season, eclipsing the mark of 17 jointly held by Dominic Chapman and Christian Wade that has stood since the 1997-98 campaign.
The Chiefs number eight reached the milestone with three rounds of the regular season still to play as England head coach Eddie Jones watched from the stands.
While Jones has not capped Simmonds since 2018, the 26-year-old has been selected for the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa this summer.
Ladies and Gentlemen I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Sam Simmonds……. What a player and now @premrugby record try scorer in a season! Wonder what Eddie is thinking! 👀
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) May 18, 2021
Simmonds told BT Sport: “It means a lot to me. As a team we’re striving for greatness and we’re striving to win the competition.
“The boys want me to score, the boys want me to get the record. They’re putting me in those positions and credit to them for helping me get the record.
“I turned up at Exeter at 18 not really knowing what position I wanted to play. About 85 kilos. Some people probably think I’m still 85 kilos now.
“They’ve allowed me to be me and score tries and excel as a player. The players do so much for me. I’m so thankful to be part of the team.”
Sections of a 3,988 crowd in west London chanted ‘Simmo is a Lion’ and the back row reflected on his selection by Warren Gatland despite being deemed surplus to requirements by England.
“It’s surreal. That was not something I ever dreamed of. I wanted to play for Exeter. I wanted to play one time, that was it,” Simmonds said.
“I’m lucky to have played for Exeter a lot of times, lucky enough to have played for England in 17-18. And now I’m going to look forward to the summer.”
Exeter reclaimed second place with the bonus-point win that also saw Joe Simmonds and Tom O’Flaherty touch down, but the champions were forced to dig deep before eventually pulling away.
Irish put a difficult start behind them to stay competitive until O’Flaherty and Sam Simmonds struck late tries.