London Scottish are moving ever closer to an historic top-four finish in the Greene King IPA Championship – and prop Mark Lilley admits the prospect of facing Bristol Rugby in knockout rugby is one he is struggling to ignore.
Loosehead Lilley is on a season-long loan at the Athletic Ground from Bristol, and his arrival has coincided with a memorable campaign for the Exiles, with the side currently third and on course for a place in the season-ending shootout for the first time.
A last-gasp draw at home to Doncaster Knights on Friday evening stretched their unbeaten league run to four games, and ensured they sit 15 points clear of fifth-placed Rotherham Titans with four matches to go.
And as the play-off bandwagon rolls ever closer, the chance of Lilley meeting his parent club over two legs – or in the final – is one he openly relishes.
“I would be lying if I said I hadn't thought about coming up against them at the later stages,” the Bath Academy graduate said.
“The league is so tight at the top between them and Worcester, and they face each other on the final day, so I think it will come down to that one as to who we might face.
“Both sides would obviously be a huge challenge, but personally it would be great to meet Bristol in the semis. I know it would be a really good occasion for myself and for the team.
“I've got some good mates at the Ashton Gate, so I'm sure we would be in contact – it is a really exciting prospect.
“But first we have to make sure that we cement our place in the top four, because it's not certain yet and we know we have to concentrate on the games ahead before we get carried away.”
Next up for Lilley's Exiles are Worcester Warriors, fresh from a shock 23-21 defeat at Jersey that knocked them off the Greene King IPA Championship top spot and ended their stunning 24-game winning run.
The Warriors will be desperate to get back to winning ways as they again attempt to leapfrog Bristol above them, but the London Scottish prop, while not ignoring the scale of the challenge, believes Jersey's success is an encouraging one for his side.
“Jersey are a very hard team to face at their place, but it was still a surprise result given how Worcester have gone this season,” Lilley added.
“It shows this league is so open and that the top teams can be picked off, so it gives us real confidence of going to Sixways and getting a result.
“We were close at home to Bristol and the Warriors this year, but we haven't managed to beat one of those top sides yet – if we can pick up a win it would be massive for us moving forward.
“If we want to win this league then we are going to have to overcome one of those teams, so this weekend is a big opportunity to make a statement.”
Worcester Warriors v London Scottish, Saturday, March 28, 3pm kick-off. Full match preview and team news, click here