MATCH REPORT | Exeter Chiefs 20-22 Saracens Men
Alex Goode’s nerves of steel secured Saracens Men a dramatic 22-20 victory over Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park.
The Men in Black trailed 20-19 with the clock in the red, but a scrum penalty allowed Goode to kick his side in front and spark wild celebrations on a landmark day for him as he equalled the all-time appearance record for the club.
In a half of few opportunities it was Exeter who dominated the early proceedings. A yellow card for Owen Farrell early on put the hosts on the front foot, but they were met by a resilient defence who wouldn’t let them breach the line easily.
The Chiefs got ahead through Henry Slade’s boot with 22 minutes played, but then Sarries struck with their first attack to stun the home crowd.
Elliot Daly and Max Malins combined brilliantly down the right, and then the ball was recycled to Theo McFarland who rampaged his way over the line from just inside the 22. Farrell’s conversion meant has side had a 7-3 lead despite having virtually no possession.
The ill-discipline from Sarries was then starting to cost them, a chance for Olly Woodburn came when he chased down a grubber but was beaten by the bounce, but they struck from their next opportunity just before half time.
A penalty was kicked to the corner and with their maul powering towards the line Mako Vunipola dragged it down and was sent to the sin-bin. That resulted in a penalty try to the delight of the home crowd.
The visitors didn’t let it affect them though, and a long-range penalty from Daly with the final play of the half made it 10-10 at the break.
The Chiefs were rampant at the start of the second half and had a string of chances in front of a vocal home crowd. Jack Nowell’s grubber caused all sorts of bother for the defence, but they just about managed to get back and save themselves.
Then Sarries started to turn the screw, and after Maro Itoje went inches from scoring, Harvey Skinner was sent to the sin-bin for killing the ball and then the visitors pounced.
Two penalties in as many minutes from Farrell put them 16-10 ahead, and then Daly kicked one from 55 metres with just 12 minutes to play as it looked like his side had wrestled themselves a famous win.
The final 10 minutes then burst in to life, and Jacques Vermeulen’s try from close range was followed by an impressive conversion from Slade, as they cut the lead to just two points with eight minutes left.
The Chiefs then came to the fore, and a raucous home crowd roared them in front with only three minutes left with another Slade penalty which looked to have ripped up the unbeaten start to the season.
However this team, as they have so often shown never know when they’re beaten, and even when Exeter had a scrum with a clock in the red, they responded in incredible fashion.
The front-row’s enormous shove got them the penalty, and then Goode stepped up and his pinpoint accuracy secured the first win at Sandy Park since 2016, and triggered memorable scenes which won’t be forgotten for a long time.