Exeter Chiefs 18 Saracens 16: Late heartbreak for Sarries as double-double dream dies with defeat in Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final: Exeter Chiefs 18 Saracens 16
Saracens’ bid for the double-double was firmly halted after a late Sam Simmonds try put Exeter Chiefs into the Premiership final.
The Hendon-based club were within touching distance of the final themselves after Mike Ellery put Sarries ahead with five minutes to play.
The tie had all the hallmarks of a final in a repeat of last year’s clash at Twickenham.
It was Sarries who led 6-0 following two Owen Farrell penalties early in the first half with the Chiefs struggling to find their feet in the opening stages.
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Having lost both Mike Rhodes and Chris Ashton to injury in the opening 10 minutes, the south west club began to apply the pressure on the Sarries defence and the pendulum swung firmly in the favour of the Chiefs.
Fly-half Gareth Steenson levelled the scores with two penalties himself, before a sustained period of pressure just before half time saw Sarries’ backs-to-the-wall defence continuously bombarded.
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Uncharacteristic errors started to encroach into Sarries’ game early in the second forty and a weary-looking Saracens defence began to crack.
Jack Nowell put the Chiefs ahead after picking up from the base of a ruck and dived over from close range. Steenson converted for a 13-6 lead.
The seven-point deficit gave Sarries the impetus and with it reduced the arrears with a finely worked Chris Wyles try in the corner following most phases they had built in the game.
Farrell failed to convert and with two points behind, Sarries applied some pressure of their own and looked to have won the contest when Ellery’s acrobatics put the visitors ahead on the 75 minute mark.
The Chiefs hit back with the knock-out blow with Simmonds crossing the line after a well worked rolling maul.
Sarries will be disappointed to be not competing in their fourth consecutive final, but in Exeter they were halted by arguably the best side in the league this season who will look to go one better next week.