Match Report: Chiefs 65 Saracens 10
Exeter Chiefs have enjoyed some famous days at Sandy Park, and this season opener will go down as one of them.
The men from Devon were like a force of nature, coming forward in waves that sank any Saracens marauding ships with the Londoners left floundering, as the Chiefs racked up a remarkable 65 points.
It was a fearsome first forty minutes, with Exeter’s newly shaped young backline ripping through the visitors at will, as they went a point a minute to leave the defending champions grasping at shadows.
The second half may not have had the same intensity, but it didn’t stop the Chiefs from adding another four tries on their way to inflicting a record defeat on Saracens in emphatic fashion.
It was the dream start for the home side, the visitors kicking long giving Josh Hodge prime attacking ball. The full-back doesn’t need much space and he burst through a couple of Saracens defenders to set the Chiefs up on the front foot within the first 90 seconds.
From there, the ball spread wide to Harvey Skinner, who challenged the defence, drawing in the last man and freeing the flying Feyi-Waboso to streak clear and open the Chiefs account.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors, with Captain Alex Losowski sent to the sin-bin minutes later for a high shot on Hodge.
The opening exchanges were all Chiefs, and it seemed the visiting Saracens had no answers. From a driving line-out the Exeter eight went to work, and the visitors pack were helpless to deal with the power, Greg Fisilau emerging last from the wreckage with the next five pointer.
The tries kept coming and Saracens were at sixes and sevens trying to deal with the pace and power from the Chiefs.
The Chiefs went wide left and found Tommy Wyatt in space. The youngster has made a name for himself over the past twelve months with some mazy running and he cut inside to get the home side to within five metres of the line. Scrum-Half Tom Cairns whipped the ball out to captain Jack Yeandle before Ethan Roots grabbed his first Prem Rugby try by powering through the middle.
Exeter were in dreamland and in the bright autumn sunshine the scores fell like rain.
The attacking kicking game has been used to great effect already this season, and scrum-half Tom Cairns set-up the next score with a delicate chip into space from inside his own half. Henry Slade gathered and offloaded in one slick movement to Tom Hendrickson who charged away, the Chiefs 22-0 up after only 20 minutes.
The visitors were imploding, and the next try came gift wrapped. A long kick by the Chiefs pinned Saracens back into their own half. Defence coach Omar Mouneimne has worked this team hard over the pre-season and it was the kick chase from the home side which paid dividends, as Henry Slade gathered an interception with ease and strolled in.
Next cab off the rank was Josh Hodge. A lovely ball floated over the top found Immanuel Feyi-Waboso in space, the young winger chipping over the defence into the Saracens 22. Hodge came from nowhere to lead the charge and dive on the ball just before it went dead. A record points tally for the Chiefs against Saracens inside 30 minutes, 36-0.
It wasn’t done, and it was once again Josh Hodge who provided the magic.
The full-back has been at his free-flowing best so far this season, but the try that rounded out the half was a moment of pure wizardry.
Picking up the ball in the wide channels and faced with a wall of Saracens attackers, the fleet footed full-back danced, fended and slalomed his way to the try line to round out a remarkable first-half of rugby.
Half-Time: Exeter Chiefs 41 – 0 Saracens
The visitors started the second half with higher intensity (after what must have been a sharp team talk from Mark McCall and his coaches) and they found space on the kick return, spreading the ball wide to find Olly Hartley in space to dot down to remove the dreaded 0 from the scoreboard.
However, it was only a flash in a pan and it was more brilliance from the Chiefs star of the show Hodge that extinguished the Saracens fire.
Exeter broke from a set-play, freeing the blonde streak of lightning to attack the ball in space. He only needs an inch and he’ll take a mile, gliding through defenders and disappearing into the distance to dive over for his hat-trick.
Whilst Saracens pulled one more score back through Sean Maitland, they were never close to being at the races and in their 300th fixture, the Exeter Chiefs reigned supreme.
Rusi Tuima has stepped up this season and looks a real asset in the second-row as he claimed the home teams ninth try, before replacements Ross Vintcent and Niall Armstrong rounded out the scoring.
In truth, this was exquisite rugby from Exeter, played with pace, precision and a flair that should have all Chiefs fans licking their lips. There is talent bursting from every position, and it is young talent eager to make it’s mark on the Premiership.
Many fans will have feared for this team, having been shorn of so many household names in the summer, and there will be sterner tests to come than this Saracens team that lacked many of their international stars, but an emphatic win like this isn’t to be underestimated and the confidence coursing through Devonshire veins will be a warning to the rest of the leauge.
Chiefs: J Hodge (W Haydon-Wood 68); I Feyi-Waboso (B Hammersley 58), H Slade, T Hendrickson, T Wyatt; H Skinner, T Cairns (N Armstrong 60); S Sio (B Keast 46), J Yeandle © (M Norey 60), E Painter (J Iosefa-Scott 46); R Tuima, L Pearson (A Davis 60), E Roots, J Vermeulen, G Fisilau (R Vintcent 60).
Tries: Feyi-Waboso, G Fisilau, E Roots, T Hendrickson, H Slade, J Hodge (3), Tuima, Vintcent, Armstrong. Conversions: Slade (4), Skinner
Yellow Cards: Tommy Wyatt
Saracens: T Parton (M Vunipola 40); R Segun, A Lozowski ©, O Hartley, A Lewington (S Maitland 55); A Goode, A Davies (C Braken 72); T West (R Adams-Hale 44), S Adejimi (J Hadfield 51), M Riccioni (A Clarey 52); C Hunter-Hill (O Stonham 19), N Isiekwe, T McFarland, T Knight, T Willis
Tries: O Hartley, Maitland Conversions: Penalties:
Yellow Cards: A Lozowski, A Davies
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe