May 26, 2018
Saracens crowned Aviva Premiership Champions after 10-27 win over Chiefs
With a combination of their trademark physicality and some glorious moments of flair in attack Saracens claimed a 10-27 win over Exeter Chiefs to secure the 2017/18 Aviva Premiership title in a hard fought battle at Twickenham.
It had been billed as one of the finals of recent years, with pundits and supporters a like expecting a close and physical encounter. The first forty at Twickenham this afternoon did not disappoint.
It was physical from the get go. Exeter came out of the blocks strongly, pressuring Saracens with a game plan built around a succession of bruising carries. Saracens were prepared however, the wolf pack defence living up to its reputation as time after time Saracens crashed in on every attack, fearless tackles stopping the Chiefs in their tracks.
Exeter however were the ones to break the deadlock, opening the scoring when Saracens were penalised at the breakdown in front of the posts. It was a simple effort for Joe Simmonds, who slotted the kick to give the Chiefs an early lead.
Chiefs’ narrow lead was not to last though, as it was Saracens who were the game’s first try scorers when Billy Vunipola bundled his way over the line in typical bulldozer fashion. “Billy’s back!” proclaimed the Saracens faithful sat behind the press benches, as Owen Farrell stepped up to add the extras and put Saracens four points clear of the Chiefs.
As the half wore on Saracens gradually increased their hold on the game, squeezing Exeter out time and time again.
If Sarries’ first try was an expression of physicality and patience, the second less than five minutes later was one of attacking class. Sparked by an alert Alex Goode, Saracens created space on the wing for Sean Maitland to gain the edge over his defender before offloading to Chris Wyles on his left who cruised in to score in what was his final appearance for the club ahead of retirement and become the first player to appear in three Premiership final and score in each of them.
For all of Exeter’s efforts and possession in the half they did not truly look like scoring; Saracens in contrasts resembled a firework about to go off.
Saracens picked up the second half right where they had left the first one combining beautifully, after Brad Barritt had forced his way forward through the Exeter defence, to set Chris Wyles up for his second of the afternoon. A perfect send off for the retiring ex-USA international.
60 minutes played and with Schalk Brits in the bin, and it looked like Exeter’s pressure on the Sarries line had finally paid off for them as they drove over the line under the posts. Referee Wayne Barnes was not convinced though and replays showed the ball had not been fully grounded, a Sarries arm preventing what would have otherwise been a certain score. From the restart though Exeter earnt what was just reward for a sustained period of relentless intensity, slicing the Saracens lead to 9 points when replacement fly half Gareth Steenson darted through the defence from close range to score. 10-19 the score with just over 15 minutes left to play.
The fight on display from both sides was plain to see; the game was as ferociously fought as the last ten minutes approached as it has been in the opening ten. With the clock winding down a penalty kick from Ben Spencer extended Saracens lead to 12 points before Saracens produced one final flourish to secure the game. Camped out in the Chiefs 22 Saracens piled on the pressure, drawing in Exeter’s defence to free up Nathan Earle on the far wing who delivered the try. Spencer’s conversion missed the mark but the game was won; Saracens were the Aviva Premiership Champions, securing victory by 27-10.