Mar 26, 2016
Inspired Saracens Return To Top Of The Table With Win Over Exeter Chiefs
Saracens returned to the top of the Aviva Premiership table with a bonus point win over Exeter Chiefs at Allianz Park this afternoon.
Buoyed by the return of a number of players from Six Nations duty, Saracens put in a lively performance, showcasing attacking real attacking flair as well as their trademark defence to out play an Exeter side who came into the game as league leaders.
Making his 200th appearance for the Club, Alex Goode crossed for the home side after 20 minutes after returning Scotland international Duncan Taylor’s searing break took the ball close to the Chief’s line before Billy Vunipola bagged Saracens second just after the half hour mark. Two Exeter penalties from Gareth Steenson made the score 12-6 to the home side at half time.
Sarries were close to scoring again soon after the restart through Will Fraser but the ball was knocked out of the flanker’s grasp. A third try came for Saracens through man of the man Owen Farrell who sprinted away from the Exeter defence after a stunning offload from Schalk Brits.
The bonus point would come when Neil de Kock, on for his 250th cap, offloaded to Jackson Wray who crossed over under the posts before fellow milestone man Chris Wyles bagged a try of his own with five minutes left in the game. Exeter crossed for their second of the day on 80 minutes to take the final score to 36-18.
It was a lively start to the game and it would be Exeter who had the first chance at goal when Sarries were penalised for not rolling away in the tackle, presenting an opportunity for Gareth Steenson to put points on the board early on. Steenson's effort at the posts was off the target as the wind dictated the direction of the kick. This was an uncharacteristic miss for the Aviva Premiership’s record scorer.
Sarries were soon on the attack with clever running from Owen Farrell opening gaps within the Chiefs defence and pulling the strings for the home side despite the challenging blustery conditions. Exeter’s defence was called into regular duty within the first quarter, with heavy tackles required stop the momentum of the likes of Billy and Mako Vunipola.
The Sarries attack was in good form with Chris Wyles making a good early break and both Taylor and Brits making a nuisance of themselves but the Exeter defence was up to the task and contained the home side until mid-way through the first half.
Sarries made the breakthrough however when Duncan Taylor broke away and Alex Goode ran onto a delightful Mako Vunipola pass to mark his 200th appearance for the club with a score under the posts.
Exeter looked to make an immediate comeback as Dollman took the ball on with Geoff Parling making good groundwork. Their momentum was halted as Farrell and Goode counteracted their threat and Sarries forced the errors from the visitors.
A penalty to Saracens gave Farrell a shot at goal but he was unsuccessful as the wind again played havoc for the kickers. The usually metronomic Steenson would too become a victim of the Barnet breeze with his own missed attempt shortly after.
Saracens would pounce on this miss with good attacking work from Billy Vunipola who knocked back his marker to go over the try line in the corner. The wind again had a role to play as Farrell skewed his conversion attempt to make the score 12-0 as the half time came to a close.
Exeter did manage to get some scores on the board however at the close of the half. Geoff Parling made an impressive steal from the lineout as good work from Cowan-Dickie saw the ball being brought back for a penalty, Steenson slotting over the effort to make the score 12-3. Only moments later would Exeter get further points on the board as Steenson slotted a penalty over from the halfway line to make the score 12-6 as the referee blew the halftime whistle.
Saracens started the second half brightly, slowing down Exeter and with returning England International Maro Itoje making an impact at the breakdown. From the ensuing Saracens scrum, Billy Vunipola made a terrific break that saw him bounce off would be tacklers before Wigglesworth managed to offload to flanker Will Fraser who was unlucky not to score as the ball was knocked away as he dived for the try line.
Saracens were looking dangerous in attack thanks to inspired play from Wyles and Brits and the power of Billy Vunipola. Exeter defended valiantly but just after the 50 minute mark Wigglesworth managed to get the ball to Brits who offloaded to Owen Farrell. Farrell then broke the line to dash unopposed under the posts. His conversion made the score 19-6.
Exeter showed their own class however when Chudley’s box kick caught Saracens off guard and Henry Slade collected the ball before offloading to the onrushing Olly Woodburn. He was tackled tremendously by Chris Wyles to prevent a score. As play was brought back for an infringement Slade’s penalty into touch saw Parling catch the lineout and set up the Chief’s driving maul, the Aviva Premiership’s top try scorer Thomas Waldrom driving over the try line in the process. Steenson missed a straightforward conversion to leave the score 19-11.
Sarries turned the corner on the hour mark as Neil De Kock came on for his 250th appearance for the club. His short box kick bounced kindly for Saracen’s attack. A great break from Schalk Brits allowed him to switch the pass to De Kock who dashed for the line. Before being tackled by the onrushing Exeter marker, he hooked his pass over the defender to the onrushing Jackson Wray who crashed over the try line for the bonus point. Farrell converted to make the score 26-11.
Having claimed the bonus point Sarries continued to pressurise the Exeter try line. Exeter defended hard and managed to steal the ball for Slade to clear. Through the next scrum, de Kock laid the ball off to Bosch before milestone man Wyles managed to push off two would be Exeter tacklers to cross in the corner. Fellow 200 club member Alex Goode converted to make the score 36-11.
Exeter did manage to get a consolation score at the last play of the game. Maro Itoje was given a yellow card for not rolling away in the breakdown and Slade’s kick to the corner allowed Cowan Dickie to feed Waldrom the ball. Ian Whitten was held up on try line and from the ensuing scrum, Waldrom took the ball to score his second try. Hooley converted to make the score 36 -18 as the referee blew up the whistle.
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