MATCH REPORT | Exeter Chiefs 18-15 Saracens Men
Saracens Men suffered a narrow 18-15 defeat to Exeter Chiefs in their first trip to Sandy Park for two years.
Mark McCall’s men were left to rue some ill-discipline but almost rallied to another late comeback but they fell just short as they were forced to settle for a losing bonus-point.
In a cagey opening 40 minutes it was Sarries who struck first, a penalty from the ever-reliable Alex Lozowski ensured that the visitors went 3-0 in front with just four minutes on the clock.
The conditions were extremely challenging at Sandy Park which had a huge impact on the game, but with 10 minutes it gone it looked as if the hosts had scored the first try of the match before it was disallowed by the Television Match Official. Henry Slade gathered the ball from in front of one of his team mates which meant Sam Simmonds’ score was chalked off, much to the relief of the visiting supporters.
Joe Simmonds then levelled the score from the tee as the Chiefs opened their account, but it was followed immediately by another opportunity for Sarries which was taken by Lozowski to put his side 6-3 in front with 10 minutes until the break.
Ben Earl and Max Malins then looked to latch on to a mistake as they went on the counter and charged in to the 22, but as was the story for most of the first half the wind ensured the ball went forward and the chance went away.
Some sensational maul defence from Sarries looked to have given them the lead at the break, however with the final play of the half Tom O’Flaherty scored to put the Chiefs in front.
They won an aerial battle and then immediately had an overlap on the left hand side, and the cross-field kick was gathered by the winger who rose highest to score in the corner. The conversion went wide, meaning Sarries trailed 8-6 at the break.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first with both teams looking to play without the ball in the wind, and after an extended spell of kicking ping pong Sarries got a penalty in front of the posts which Lozowski kicked as the visitors took the lead for the third time.
Earl then got another opportunity as he stepped his way in to the 22 from the base of a ruck and looked like he would go all the way before being hauled down just short. Then in a crucial moment the Chiefs turned it over and hammered the ball in to the Sarries half to get a penalty.
From the penalty they kicked to the corner, and the maul powered over the line as Luke Cowan-Dickie broke away to score. The conversion from Simmonds put them 15-9 ahead.
The Chiefs were then in the mood and Alex Goode had to scramble back to gather a grubber under huge pressure, however just minutes later they got another penalty and Simmonds edged them eight points in front.
Just as it looked as if it might have been a step too far for Sarries, they sparked in to life as we entered the final 10 minutes to make for a grandstand finish.
Lozowski kicked two penalties in as many minutes to make it 18-15 with nine minutes remaining, but the visitors were then charged down and the Chiefs went through numerous phases as the clock continued to tick down.
The phenomenal defensive effort which went on for several minutes did manage to hold them up to result in a goal-line drop out and give Sarries one last chance.
They held on to the ball and got up to half way, but eventually ran out of steam and the hosts hammered the ball in to touch to get themselves a hard-fought victory.