Rugby League World Cup tickets booked in 202 took me to Hull this weekend, so I listened to this match courtesy of BBC Devon Radio. I tried my best not to find the commentary biased, and they did send some praise the way of Saracens but blatantly disagreed with a couple of scrum penalties awarded against Chiefs, in spite of praising Sir before the game started. Both men were clearly on first name terms with Henry Slade and referred to him as Henry throughout. I always think a commentator should remember they can be heard all over the world these days. They did hope the crowd would respect Alex Goode as he took the final kick of the match, but sadly it was clear that didn’t happen.I’m about to watch the recorded match and will try my very best not to show my own bias!

Alec Clarey Warming up

There was some aggro early on as Owen Farrell shoved Harry Williams on the floor after he’d leapt on top of Ben Earl, who’d won a penalty, the actions of the Saracens captain was deemed inflammatory and unnecessary and the penalty was reversed. Exeter’s strong forward pack with a bit ion Jack Nowell added in got close to the Saracens line playing on to the 17th phase with a penalty in the offing. With just over 5 minutes on the clock Farrell had 10 minutes on the naughty step, having stepped across and tripped Nowell. It was a stupid thing to do and not a ‘rubbish’ card as Farrell seemed to mutter, what also wasn’t great were the cheers from the home crowd as he walked off.

A troublesome start and finish for Owen Farrell

I’m going to get this moan out of the way early, Exeter as a club have done the right thing in re-branding their club away from the Native American Chief, it’s regrettable a number of their fans insist on sticking with the same old Tomahawk chant, it’s not a good sound.

Ivan Van Zyl received some early treatment to a very battered face, he’s a player who’s improved incredibly this season, he’s almost unrecognisable and played the full 80 even with his black eye.

Olly Woodburn won the ball back for Chiefs with an excellent turnover after Saracens first foray into their half, he first tackled Billy Vunipola then dropped away before removing Nick Tompkins, an excellent piece of work from the winger. Mako Vunipola then gave away a penalty allowing Chiefs to get the ball out of their half.

Mako Vunipola in warm up mode

Farrell re-joined the field to boo’s – again, not a good sound Chiefs fans, Chiefs hadn’t taken advantage of the extra man. Stuart Hogg left the field after 16 minutes for an HIA which saw Joe Simmonds on for the 10 minutes, it’s a surprise for me that he isn’t in the starting line up.

Moan alert, according to Ben Kay, I think, Max Malins deliberately knocked the ball on when he went to tackle Simmonds, the ball stayed with Simmonds and Chiefs already had a penalty in the bag, a totally pointless observation!

The first points of the match came from the boot of Henry Slide after Ben Earl was penalised for being off-side, the wind was with him but it was a long distance kick well taken. A 3 point lead for the home team.

Theo McFarland breezed through to score Saracens first points, a perfectly timed pass from Farrell after a lovely cross field kick to Elliot Daly from Alex Lozowski who passed out to Malins on the right wing, he passed back to Daly then acted as scum half, the ball was worked back to the right before McFarland strolled in. Farrell added the extras.

Max Malians at 9
Theo McFarland gets better and better

A high tackle from Earl gave Chiefs another penalty in Saracens half, it was an arm sliding up rather than a straight high shot so just a penalty. Hogg returned on 28 minutes, I thought Simmonds had played well while he was on, Harvey Skinner playing at 10 had been fairly anonymous..

A penalty for Chiefs on the halfway line saw a great kick close to the Saracens line, as the maul rolled at speed towards the line Mako Vunipola got into a bad position, pulling the ball carrier down, that resulted in a penalty try and a yellow card for Vunipola. It’s never great to be playing for 20 minutes with 14 men! That gave Chiefs a 3 point lead.

Saracens were awarded a penalty, cleverly won by van Zyl as pointed out by the commentator. Daly took the kick and levelled the scores at half-time. A half of rugby for the die hard rugby fans it was a hard fought contest and the score was probably about right.

The penalty try as Vunipola was binned were the only points scored while Saracens were down to 14, Alex Lewington had given way for a replacement prop a minute into the half, but Chiefs again couldn’t find a way through the stretched Saracens defence.

Chiefs fans cheers as Saracens spilled the ball close to the Chiefs line soon turned to boos as the in waiting penalty was given, another shout out to ref link, they’d have known it was coming if they hadn’t seen the referee’s arm. A yellow card went the way of Harvey Skinner as he played the ball on the floor, that came after Mark Itoje had made a great run, to be stopped by an excellent, try saving tackle from Henry Slade. Farrell put Saracens ahead with the ensuing penalty after some shirt pulling and angst in a mixed bundle.

Players ‘getting to know’ each other

Sam Simmonds entered the fray on 52 minutes, again a surprise he isn’t starting, a minute later Joe Simmonds replaced Stuart Hogg permanently, Hogg was very clearly unhappy to be leaving the pitch. According to Ali Hepher Chiefs Head Coach Hogg had taken a couple of knocks.

A mention for Ian Whitten as I watch him giving away a penalty, at 35 he’s still a very good rugby player, he played the full 80 at 12, lying on the wrong side this time, but he had to be given credit in such a dynamic position. The penalty was a straight forward kick and duly converted giving Saracens a 6 point lead.

Ivan van Zyl breaking through

Play was stopped on 60 minutes as a very woozy Owen Farrell was spotted, he’d tackled Joe Simmonds knee with his head and walked off very groggily, that must put him at risk for the Autumn internationals. Alex Goode came on in his stead, reaching his 338th appearance, equalling Chris Chesney’s record, quite remarkable! And agreed Brian O’Driscoll it is a surprise that he didn’t get more England caps!

Skinner’s return took Chiefs back to 15, Saracens had just the 2 penalties to show for the extra man. However Elliot Daly kicked a monster penalty from within Saracens half to put his team 9 points ahead.

Chiefs scored a try on 70 minutes after some great work from Skinner and Sam Maunder, on at 9 for his brother Jack (how proud must their parents be) Sam Simmonds had also been involved earlier in the move. Jacques Vermeulen powered over through several defenders and that made it a 2 point game.

Chiefs took the lead with a 76th minute penalty, after Saracens had gone offside, Slade taking the points rather than kicking for the line out. There was no question in Slade’s mind that he’d take the kick. That put Chiefs ahead again by a point, much to the obvious joy of the large home crowd.

With 80 minutes on the clock Saracens were awarded a penalty after a double scrum, Chiefs initially knocking the ball on after Saracens pushed on their scrum, the referee’s arm went up as Saracens pushed again. Alex Goode, taking his first and obviously last kick off the match, stepped up to boos galore, making the successful kick and resulting win even more satisfying. A very tough result for Exeter Chiefs, but hands were still shaken at the end of the match.

A great photo of Jack Nowell

A few stats, Saracens missed 28 tackles to Chiefs 12, Exeter gave away 15 penalties to Saracens 12. Mark Itoje was awarded the Man of the Match award.

Photo credit goes to Daniel Davis, some truly wonderful shots from him, thank you Daniel

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