Saracens pass their first real test against Exeter - and there’s plenty more to come from them
PUBLISHED: 15:45 12 September 2016 | UPDATED: 16:03 12 September 2016
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Saracens’ winning start to the season continued on Sunday as they made it two from two, seeing off Exeter Chiefs at a wind-swept Sandy Park and underlining their status as the team to beat.
In a re-run of last season’s Premiership final, Exeter were expected to provide the first real test of Sarries’ credentials.
But, while Mark McCall’s men were nowhere near top gear, they still triumphed 34-13, and the manner of the victory will send a strong message to their Premiership rivals.
So far they have only conceded only one try, despite spending part of Sunday’s clash with 14 men, and they have collected winning bonus points from both matches.
Having suffered just two losses on the road last season, and with Allianz Park being such an impenetrable fortress, Saracens’ perfect start to the season could continue for a little while yet.
The Hendon-based club picked up where they had left off against Worcester in their previous outing, scoring two early tries in clinical fashion through newcomers Alex Lozowski and Sean Maitland.
Yet a spirited period from the Chiefs gave Saracens an unfamiliar, vulnerable look - errors and set-piece frailty allowed the hosts to gain territory and expose openings in their visitors’ defence.
A Richard Wigglesworth yellow card just shy of half-time would have left defence coach Alex Sanderson with his head in his hands, after a haphazard trip on fly-half Henry Slade.
But, with a numerical disadvantage, Saracens’ experience showed and they only conceded six points in the first half.
The work at the breakdown was outstanding and McCall’s side amassed six turnovers in just 25 minutes, alleviating the relentless pressure and allowing them to get out of their half.
Leading 12-6 at the break, Saracens were quickly out of the traps again after the restart, scoring two further tries and securing the bonus point.
The attacking play was at times mesmerising, with Maitland adding his second try before Billy Vunipola’s run and sublime offload put man of the match Jackson Wray over the whitewash.
Much has been said of Vunipola’s outstanding ball-carrying abilities, particularly during the summer in England’s series win over Australia, but he is a player who consistently continues to impress. The work-rate and tackle count against the Chiefs will have surely been noted in Eddie Jones’ little black book as he looked on from the stands.
Vunipola was matched in the loose, with Wray and Schalk Burger contributing hugely to the phase play that built momentum in the second half.
Captain Brad Barritt was also instrumental in offering himself as the strike runner in between the barrage of forward running. His work ethic is second to none, in both attack and defence, and he gives his side another dimension alongside centre partner Marcelo Bosch.
Saracens will now head back to Allianz Park on Saturday with the confidence and expectation that they can make it three wins from three against Northampton.
The Saints will be in high spirits themselves after their bonus-point victory at Bristol, but Sarries will be determined to cement their place at the top of the Premiership and build up a lead ahead of November’s autumn internationals, when they are sure to lose a hoard of players.
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