Exeter go seven points clear with win over Saracens

Phil Dollman goes over for Exeter's opening try against Saracens
Aviva Premiership
Exeter (14) 24
Tries: Dollman, Penalty try Pens: Simmonds 4
Saracens (12) 12
Tries: Earl, Brits Cons: Lozowski

Exeter ground out a vital win over a spirited but depleted Saracens in the top-of-the-table Premiership clash.

Joe Simmonds kicked three penalties in a quiet opening before three tries in the final seven minutes of the half.

Ben Earl's try brought Sarries close, Phil Dollman then scored for Exeter before Schalk Brits was forced over for the visitors just before the break.

Simmonds' fourth penalty and a penalty try sealed the points for the home side in the second half.

Exeter go seven points clear at the top with Wasps leapfrogging Sarries into second place after their win over bottom side London Irish.

On his first Premiership start, facing the reigning European champions, Exeter's 22-year-old fly-half Simmonds looked like a veteran.

The younger brother of England back-row Sam was faultless from the tee before sending in an excellent pass for Dollman to get his first try since the Premiership final last May.

That score came after Earl's superb run from outside the Exeter 22 had got Saracens within two points, and they were that far behind at the break after Brits got on the end of a driving maul in the final play of the half.

With skipper Brad Barritt and Chris Wyles going off early in the second half, it was always going to be tough for a Saracens side without many of their established stars.

The European champions had 18 players injured or unavailable before kick-off, including internationals Mako and Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Owen Farrell and Richard Wigglesworth.

But their excellent defence forced Exeter into numerous errors and they would have taken the lead had Ben Spencer's 58th-minute penalty not been short.

Simmonds' 64th-minute penalty extended the Chiefs' lead before a fine break from Nic White and Henry Slade saw Sarries full-back Alex Goode forced to touch down in his own in-goal area.

Exeter's pack forced two penalties from the resulting scrum, before referee Matt Carley went to the posts after a third. Despite a late break from Alex Lozowski, Exeter's defence held firm for a key win.

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Sport:

"More than anything I'm pleased for the players because, at the end of the day, a fair bit of the issues we had last week and that nervy and edgy performance [in a 31-30 win over Northampton] was created by the pressure they put on themselves.

"They want to do well and they want to perform well. It shows you that sometimes it's the biggest challenges that bring out the most honest performances in you and that's what it felt like today.

"I thought the challenge of Saracens coming here really brought the best out of us and we thrived on the pressure that the two-point lead going into the wind created."

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told BBC Sport:

"We put a lot of effort into the game. I'm much more pleased with the performance we put in this week than the performance we put in last week.

"We were lacking in a bit of composure at the crucial times, a bit frantic, but that's what you get with some of the inexperience that we ended up having on the field.

"You saw the strength of Exeter's 23-man squad today. They were more or less at full strength today and clearly we weren't."

Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; Turner, Slade, Hill, Woodburn; J Simmonds, White; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Francis, Skinner, Hill, Ewers, Armand (capt), Waldrom.

Replacements: Yeandle, Hepburn, Holmes, Lees, S Simmonds, Townsend, Steenson, Whitten.

Saracens: Goode; Earle, Bosch, Barritt (capt), Wyles; Lozowski, Spencer; Barrington; Brits, Figallo, Day, Kruis, Isiekwe, Earl, Wray.

Replacements: Spurling, Thompson-Stringer, Lamositele, Flanagan, Cowan, Whiteley, Malins, Segun.

Referee: Matthew Carley.

Source: BBC Rugby Union News

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By adamreeves / Administrator, bbp_keymaster on Mar 04, 2018