Match Report | Saracens Men 38-22 Exeter Chiefs
Saracens Men turned on the style as a stunning second-half display saw them come from behind to register a crucial 38-22 win over Exeter Chiefs at StoneX Stadium.
Mark McCall’s men trailed 15-10 at half time, but responded with 28 points after the break to take another giant stride towards a place in the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals.
Tries from Elliot Daly, Sean Maitland, Nick Tompkins and Ben Earl as well as 18 points from the boot of Owen Farrell ensured that they got the bonus point in front of a packed house in North London.
The Chiefs saw plenty of early ball and Henry Slade kicked them in to a 3-0 lead with just five minutes on the clock after Sarries were caught offside and the England man punished them.
Sarries clicked in to gear shortly after, and Alex Lewington’s half break drew his side a penalty in front of the sticks, which Farrell slotted to make it 3-3.
They were then dominating possession and Jamie George’s speculative grubber down the wing almost popped up for a score, but they only had to wait for 60 more seconds to get their first try of the afternoon.
Theo McFarland took the lineout, and then with multiple dummy runners the ball was spun to Daly who raced through a huge gap and dived over from just outside the 22. Farrell added the extras as the hosts heading in to a 10-3 lead.
Exeter then looked to hit back and Stuart Hogg danced his way down the wing and towards the line, but Aled Davies held firm and dragged the Scotland full-back in to touch.
Tom O’Flaherty then had a similar chance when he made some space down the left touchline, but this pass went to touch and Sarries escaped.
It was a case of third time lucky for the Chiefs, as from the next chance Sam Skinner crossed for their first of the day. Slade ran on to an offload at pace and charged towards the line, before releasing Skinner who was never going to be stopped from just two metres out. The conversion went just wide, meaning Sarries still held a two point advantage.
It got better for the Chiefs just before the break as they got their second try to take the lead. A patient spell of attack saw them go through multiple phases in the 22, and then Olly Woodburn burst through a gap to go under the sticks. Slade added the extras to put them 15-10 ahead as we edged towards half time.
Sarries were in all sorts of bother just before the break and Tom Hendrickson then raced clear from the restart, but to the relief of the home crowd Alex Goode managed to turn the ball over and stopped what looked to be a certain try.
Goode, who was in scintillating form then broke from his own line and stepped past numerous Chiefs defenders in a sparkling bit of play which brought StoneX to life, but unfortunately when the ball was recycled it went in to touch.
Slade then had one more penalty attempt with the clock dead, but it went wide and Sarries went down the tunnel trailing 15-10.
The hosts made a strong start to the second half, and Farrell’s penalty just three minutes after the restart cut the deficit to just two points with plenty of time remaining.
Maitland then scored a sensational try as Sarries hit the front in memorable fashion. Farrell’s break saw them go from one end of the field to the other, and then Maitland powered through to score one of the tries of the season. The conversion meant that all of a sudden Sarries had a 20-15 lead.
Farrell then had a shot at goal on the 50 minute mark from 40 metres out, and with a slice of luck it went over via the crossbar and now his side were eight points ahead after a brilliant start to the second half.
The hosts were on a roll and Tompkins got in on the act just before the hour as they tightened their grip on proceedings. A succession of penalties were kicked to the corner, and then a huge rolling maul rumbled over with the Welsh centre at the base to capitalise.
Exeter then looked for a route back in to the match and they thought they had scored straight away, but they were held up and after a TMO check Sarries earned a goal line drop out.
The Chiefs were then punished for not taking the chance as Farrell added another three from the tee straight after, as the lead grew to 31-15 with less than a quarter remaining.
The bonus point try then followed for Sarries as they went up a gear with another brilliant try. Rotimi Segun, who made a huge impact when he came on made a stunning break after collecting a high ball, and after stepping a number of Chiefs he passed to Earl who used his pace to score in the corner. Farrell added the extras from the touchline as the lead now stood at 38-15.
Santiago Grondona then thought he had got a late score for the Chiefs but the TMO ruled it out, however from the next attack Stuart Townsend sniped over the line to give the visitors hope of a bonus point.
Sarries then closed out the final stages in trademark style and hammered the ball in to the stands to confirm a sensational victory.