English champions Exeter Chiefs threw down the gauntlet to those hoping to depose them with their biggest win in the Premiership -- a 74-3 thrashing of Newcastle Falcons on Sunday.
England centre Henry Slade bagged a pair of the 12 tries run in by rampant Chiefs as they equalled their best tally in the top flight.
They beat London Welsh 74-19 in 2015.
For Slade it was the ideal reaction to criticism he received for telling the Daily Telegraph earlier in the week that he would not have the coronavirus vaccination as he did not trust it.
Slade -- who suffers from type 1 diabetes -- later went back on the remarks, saying he had no "hidden agenda" against the vaccination.
"Henry showed good character and he has one of the highest skill-sets in world rugby," said Exeter's head coach Ali Hepher.
Victory took Exeter into second spot, three points off leaders Bristol Bears with two games of the regular season remaining.
Sale and Harlequins sealed their places in the play-offs this weekend with wins over Bristol and Bath respectively.
Hepher said losing their European title -- they were beaten by Leinster in the quarter-finals -- had helped them in having some respite from incessant playing time.
He added the next goal was to secure a home play-off.
"We are comfortable going away to any team in the Premiership but it would be nice to get a home semi-final for our fans but we still have two tough games to play."
Slade was one of 10 Exeter players to score tries -- Jacques Vermeulen also touching down twice -- against an under-strength Newcastle outfit.
Five of the 23-man squad were making their Premiership debuts for the club but never looked capable of preventing their 13th successive loss in all competitions at Exeter.
Newcastle's second-largest margin of defeat in the Premiership left them 11th and dented their chance of qualifying for the European Champions Cup with a top-eight finish.
The Falcons are four points adrift of Wasps, who occupy the eighth and final Champions Cup qualifying spot.