Search

Brits and Johnston on target to see off Exeter Chiefs

PUBLISHED: 17:24 23 February 2014 | UPDATED: 19:05 23 February 2014

Mouritz Botha of Saracens(red skull cap) celebrates after James Johnston scores a try. Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Mouritz Botha of Saracens(red skull cap) celebrates after James Johnston scores a try. Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

2014 Getty Images

Premiership: Saracens 23 London Irish 10

Saracens beat Exeter Chiefs to celebrate Allianz Park’s first birthday in familiar style - with a Premiership victory on the artificial turf.

Since they moved into their permanent home, all but their previous home contest in the league had ended in triumph. That defeat to London Irish saw them concede a place at the summit that had been theirs all campaign and there they must stay for now after leaders Northampton beat Newcastle to remain one point clear.

It was by no means a vintage victory that marked Sarries’ first anniversary in north London, especially for a side who had averaged 35.8 points at their fortress during the last 12 months, but James Johnston’s first league score for the club cancelled out Ian Whitten’s opener after a bright start for Exeter Chiefs.

Schalk Brits crashed over in the second half as the hosts grew in dominance, while Charlie Hodgson added another 13 points to ever-impressive career tally.

Chiefs were quick out of the blocks, blasting holes through the Sarries defence until, on nine minutes, the hosts were found wanting by the corner flag when Whitten zipped over before four defenders could touch him.

Gareth Steenson added the extras and they could have piled on more points, especially when Fetu’u Vainikolo bulldozed through the centre of the pitch. Saracens managed to scramble back to cut out the danger and they grew in stature from there.

They spent the second 20 minutes battering away at Exeter’s rearguard but rarely venturing past the 22-metre line due to either poor handling or incredibly stiff resistance from the visitors.

Hodgson missed a penalty chance to reduce the arrears, although it was an adventurous effort from inside his own half, while Chris Wyles saw the glimmer of a try-scoring chance go begging when the final pass was just fractionally behind him and Dave Lewis steamed in with a tackle.

But there was no stopping 22-stone prop Johnston five minutes from the break with a short-range pick and go, aided by Mouritz Botha, that four Chiefs tacklers couldn’t halt. Hodgson converted and the two sides went into the changing rooms at seven apiece.

After the restart Steenson put the south-west side briefly back in the lead with a penalty goal but Sarries unearthed their trademark lineout drive and, after a huge shove, even by their standards, Brits supplied the finish and Hodgson widened the deficit with a well-taken conversion.

There was a lengthy delay soon after when Botha took a blow to the head in contact and was taken from the pitch on a stretcher, though he was concious and could wave to the crowd as he departed.

Hodgson slotted two penalties to put Sarries comfortably more than a score in front, but, still trying to keep alive their outside hopes of a play-off spot, the Chiefs pushed the hosts back. However, unlike at Sandy Park earlier in the season, it was relatively comfortable for the Men in Black even after Jacques Burger’s high tackle saw the flanker’s afternoon end prematurely by spending the remainder of the match in the cooler.

The 14 men even added to their tally when Hodgson plugged his third penalty for a quiet end to the afternoon, a repeat of which will be more than welcome next week at Bath.

Saracens: Ransom, Ashton, Tomkins (Streather), Barritt (Bosch), Wyles, Hodgson, Wigglesworth (De Kock), Barrington, Brits (George), Johnston (Du Plessis), Kruis, Botha (Borthwick), Wray, Brown (Burger), Joubert

Unused replacements: Auterac

Referee: Wayne Barnes

Attendance: 8,114

0 comments

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Sports News

17:00

A brace from Jeniece Benjamin helped Ben Moore and Dean Harrington’s team to victory after extra time

Spurs star smashed seven goals in final two games, including another hat-trick in 7-1 demolition of Hull City on final day

Yesterday, 18:21

Read Arsene Wenger’s full post-match interview as he says Stan Kroneke’s not to blame for missing Champions Leauge qualification – and that his future will be sorted out very soon...

Premier League: Hull City 1 (Clucas 66) Tottenham Hotspur 7 (Kane 11, 13, 72, Alli 45+2, Wanyama 69, Davies 84, Alderweireld 87)

Yesterday, 16:55

Arsenal beat Everton 3-1 at the Emirates – but the result was rendered academic with top rivals Liverpool beating Middlesbrough at Anfield to secure the final Champions League spot.

Yesterday, 16:22

Duo set to face South Africa A next month

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Middlesex’s Dawid Malan hit his first ton of the summer as his side performed well on the second day of their county championship match against Surrey at Lords.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

County Championship, day two: Middlesex (296-5) trail Surrey (313) by 17 runs

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read Hampstead & Highgate sport

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now