May 10, 2015
Saracens 20 Exeter 24
Saracens were narrowly beaten by Exeter Chiefs 20-24 in a high octane contest in front of packed Allianz Park.
Exeter Chiefs ran-in three tries to edge a highly entertaining game, with Saracens crossing for two first half scores.
The game was billed as do-or-die by Saracens captain Alistair Hargreaves in the build-up to the game, and it seemed that both sides were on message as the play-off chasing outfits produced a superb contest.
The first half went lightening quick. It was a case of bruisers and ballerina’s. Full of action, big hits, big plays with some beautifully subtle play thrown in from the likes of Marcelo Bosch and Henry Slade in the No13 shirts.
Exeter edged themselves into a 3-0 lead after ten minutes with a routine Gareth Steenson penalty. The Chiefs enjoyed large chunks of possession and territory in the opening exchanges, so it would come as a surprise that it was Saracens who would cross for the game’s first try.
It was a moment of brilliance from hooker Jamie George in the Saracens midfield that would lead up to Chris Ashton score. The in-form Saracens hooker collected Marcelo Bosch’s floated pass and made a superb break through the Chiefs midfield to pass to Bosch. The Argentine centre pulled in the covering Exeter defence to find Ashton who went over to score in his 100th Premiership game.
The Chiefs hit-back minutes later when abrasive hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie burrowed over to score from close range, as the sizeable Chiefs ball-carriers continued to dent the Sarries defence in the build-up. Steenson converted expertly.
The game was being played at a furious pace. Both sets of team looked to play enterprising counter attacking rugby and it was from turnover ball where Sarries struck again.
Turning over possession, the Chiefs were on the back foot. Saracens spread the ball immediately to find the quicksilver wing David Strettle on the left wing. Strettle danced his way down the touchline and as the cover defence closed in, the talented wing produced an audacious offload to the prolific Chris Wyles, who raced away to score his 12th try of the Premiership season. Hodgson converted superbly to make the score 14-10.
Again though the top four chasing Devonian side hit back. Rob Baxter’s men are made of sturdy stuff these days, and it was their player of the season, back rower Thomas Waldrom who would cross to score his 16th try of the season. Steenson again added the extras to edge his side in front.
Before a breathless and highly entertaining half of rugby drew to a close, Saracens levelled the scores on the stroke of halftime, with Charlie
Hodgson dissecting the scarlet uprights at Allianz Park to send the teams into the break 17 a-piece.
The second half was a much more tempered affair. The cavalier nature of both teams that light up the first forty minutes was replaced by an edgy and more tactical game of cat and mouse in the second stanza.
It wasn’t until the 54th minute that either side would go on to register a score, and it was replacement Owen Farrell who would keep the scoreboard ticking over for the north Londoners with a well hit penalty goal to edge his side in front.
Saracens plugged away, and there were telling breaks from Alex Goode, Chris Ashton and Chris Wyles in the second half but there was a lack of a clinical edge to Saracens play that would come back to haunt them in the end.
As on the 70th minute mark Exeter would cross for the match-winning try. Thomas Waldrom adding another five pointer on a remarkable season for the former England man.
Saracens had their chances near the end. A David Strettle break and two close lineouts could have nicked it in the end, but the Chiefs held on to win and throw the race for the Premiership Top 4 wide open into the final weekend.