Jun 01, 2019
Match Report: Saracens Men 37-34 Exeter Chiefs
Saracens secured the double by overturning an 11-point deficit to defeat Exeter Chiefs in a gripping Gallagher Premiership final at Twickenham.
Nic White put Exeter ahead inside a minute, but Jamie George and Ben Spencer dotted down for the champions before Dave Ewers restored the Chiefs’ lead.
Lock Jonny Hill stretched the score to 22-16 at the break and Henry Slade added a try, however Liam Williams, Sean Maitland and George saw Sarries retain the title and win a fourth in five years despite Sam Hill’s score at the death.
The Devonshire outfit flew out the traps, reclaiming the restart and barrelling their way towards the Saracens try-line at a frantic rate.
It led to Australian scrum-half White sniping his way over from a yard out and Simmonds followed up to make it a dream start for last season’s losing finalists.
But similarly to the semi-final against Gloucester, Sarries’ response was sublime. The build-up was majestic as Alex Goode and Alex Lozowski found space to release Maro Itoje on a rampaging trot through the middle.
Deep into Chiefs’ 22, Maitland looked set to be the beneficiary of a sweeping move to the left but for a Henry Slade hand. The England centre saw yellow for his cynical action and with a man advantage, Mark McCall’s side crossed for the first time.
In came the cavalry as the line-out was superbly taken and George managed to weave his way to five points.
Farrell’s conversion faded to the left but the fly-half made amends with a successful penalty moments later.
Saracens power game was causing all sorts of issues for the Chiefs defence. Billy Vunipola and Will Skelton were particularly destructive and their ability to get the Men in Red on the front foot saw Spencer squeeze home.
Back to their full contingent, Chiefs reverted to type and it played dividends. Held up twice, Rob Baxter’s men remained patient and controlled the tempo with several picks in the tight. Itoje headed to the sin bin for stepping out the line too early and Ewers brushed the whitewash with a little help from his friends.
Exeter advanced from there. The lively Jack Nowell created havoc and Simmonds’s cheeky footwork got them in behind and Jack Yeandle removed two Saracens players from the picture to allow Jonny Hill room to flop over.
Simmonds cancelled out three points from Farrell with the clock in the red to send Chiefs into the interval six points ahead.
Momentum swung back Saracens’ way early in the second half but try as they might in the opening 15 minutes of the half, Exeter kept them at bay, forcing errors and edging away from danger.
Despite dominating possession, holes proved hard to come by for the Wolfpack who continuously hammered the Chiefs defensive line.
With their tails up, the team in first place after 22 rounds strengthened their grip on the scoreline. Sam Skinner’s jaunt down the right was brought to a halt metres out and Slade picked up to stretch into the corner.
Their 11-point lead was short-lived as Saracens regained the ball from the restart and replied immediately. Farrell’s pinpoint crossfield kick was met by the leaping Williams and he squirmed over to provide Sarries a lifeline.
Farrell’s accurate touchline follow-up put a spring in the step of the European champions and soon they were in front.
Richard Wigglesworth put in a clever run from the back of a ruck and his gallop into space set up Maitland on the overlap.
Then it was game over as a relentless effort, as we have seen so many times this campaign, saw George go in under the sticks to seal victory ahead of Sam Hill’s consolation.