Radio Exe Match Report: Saracens 40 – 22 Exeter Chiefs
Individual errors and a dominant last quarter from Saracens cost Exeter Chiefs at the StoneX today as a 15-15 half-time scoreline developed into a 40-22 win for the home side.
Chiefs laid their stake early-on that the evening was not to go completely Saracens way. Billy Vunipola took off on his characteristic charging carry but hadn’t accounted on the technique of Lewis Pearson in the tackle enabling the Exeter man to strip the ball.
Despite this early hard work, the hosts were the first on the scoreboard. Going to the corner with an offside penalty, Saracens’ clean take in the air was fed into a driving maul which powered over tight to the corner flag on the far side. James Hadfield emerged from the bottom of the pile as the try scorer. The extras were not to be as Owen Farrell’s conversion attempt rebounded off the left upright.
Chiefs responded within minutes. Working ball across field from a lineout on the five metre line, the Exeter men had to hold with their patience in the opposition 22. Working with an advantage, the grunt work of the forwards tight to the line drew in the defending bodies, allowing Stu Townsend to spot the option for a spiral pass to Olly Woodburn on the wing. Harvey Skinner suffered the same fate as his opposite number as his conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
Saracens second score came off the back of a steady scrum battle between the two sides. Peeling off he flank, Andy Christie carried through a gap in the Exeter line. Josh Hodge brought him down with a timely ankle-tap tackle, but the back rower was able to offload to Ivan Van Zyl to run in the ball underneath the posts. Farrell took the simple conversion.
A cheeky lineout move straight off the training field got Chiefs their second. A short throw from Jack Yeandle to his number eight Greg Fisilau, feet firmly planted on the ground, allowed the back rower to power through the attempted tackle to reach out for the try.
Hodge took the conversion attempt and after a knock off the right upright, the ball dropped over the crossbar for the extra two points.
Just as Chiefs had drawn level on the scoreboard, Farrell tipped Saracens narrowly ahead once more with a penalty in front of the posts just inside the Exeter 22.
Chiefs were forced into an early change before the half as Townsend left the field for a blood replacement swap with Tom Cairns. His side levelled the scores in his absence as Hodge kicked a penalty from the ten-metre line to have the half-time scoreboard reading 15-15.
Half-time: Saracens 15 – 15 Chiefs
The Londoners struck first as the half got back underway. Putting pressure on the Chiefs’ defence with their kick chase, a rouge bounce of the ball had the Exeter men on the back foot. Hodge thought he had got a boot to it to knock it dead, but Juan Martin Gonzalez crashed his large frame down on top of it for the try at the corner flag. Farrell’s conversion then topped up the score.
It was pure class from the Chiefs for their third score of the evening. Hodge backtracked with pace to pick up a grubber ball on his own line. With dancing feet, he tore through the onrushing Saracens to break out of his own half. Woodburn was there for the offload on the ten-metre line. He flicked back inside to Townsend who gave the final pass to Rusi Tuima just inside the 22 for the big man to run in the score.
Hodge converting the score he had been instrumental in creating then seemed rather apt.
Captain Farrell edged his side back ahead just shy of an hour played with a penalty outside the Chiefs’ 22 for an infringement off the back of the set piece. And a drop goal a couple of minutes later topped up the score healthily in Saracen’s favour.
Hadfield took a brace try with 65 minutes on the clock. Saracens executed a punishing pace on the counter-attack and with Chiefs defenders shooting up to meet them in the contact, they found a gap on the wing to sneak through, their hooker taking the last short carry before the line. Farrell’s conversion added the extras.
There was to be one more word from Saracens as an unfortunate error from Ben Hammersley with the clock in the red saw Theo McFarland dive upon a ball that the Chiefs winger hadn’t been able to gather on his knees in his own goal area to score the game’s final try and seal a 40-22 win for the StoneX inhabitants.
Full-time: Saracens 40 – 22 Chiefs
Saracens: A Goode; R Segun (Parton 44’), N Tompkins, O Hartley (Cinti 55’), A Lewington; O Farrell, I Van Zyl (Simpson 77’); L Mulipola (Crean 52’, Mawi 77’), J Hadfield, C Judge (Hoskins 52’), T McFarland, H Tizard (Stonham 78’), J Gonzalez, A Christie, B Vunipola (Knight 69’).
Tries: Hadfield 2, Van Zyl, Gonzalez, McFarland Conversions: Farrell 3 Penalties: Farrell 2 Drop goal: Farrell
Chiefs: J Hodge; O Woodburn (Relton 66’), Z Wimbush, O Devoto, B Hammersley; H Skinner, S Townsend (Cairns 34’, Townsend 40’, Cairns 52’); A Hepburn (Southworth 66’), J Yeandle (Frost 52’), M Street (Iosefa-Scott 48’), R Tuima (Dunne 52’), D Jenkins, L Pearson, J Vermeulen, G Fisilau (Vintcent 66’).
Unused replacements: McCaig
Tries: Woodburn, Fisilau, Tuima Conversions: Hodge 2 Penalties: Hodge
Referee: Karl Dickson