Aviva Premiership: Saracens beat Exeter Chiefs to stay top
Last Updated: 23/11/13 6:20pm
Alex Goode makes a break for Saracens
Saracens battled their way to a 16-9 victory over Exeter at Sandy Park to stay top of the Aviva Premiership.
Ben Ransom's first-half try, together with kicks from Alex Goode and Marcelo Bosch, ensured Mark McCall's men picked up their sixth victory of the campaign.
Rob Baxter's Chiefs countered with three penalties of their own through Gareth Steenson (two) and Phil Dollman, and were twice denied potential tries - through Ian Whitten and Tom Johnson - by TV match official David Sainsbury.
Saracens lost fly-half Charlie Hodgson to a blow to the head early on and it was Exeter who looked to set the early tone in attack. Winger Jack Nowell's first real raid brought an early penalty chance for the home side, but Steenson was unable to land the lengthy kick.
The visitors made the most of that let-off and took the lead when Ransom, on as the replacement for Hodgson, applied the finish following a surging run from Chris Ashton that cut through the heart of the home defence. Goode added the extras to give the Londoners a seven-point advantage.
The Chiefs rallied well and came within a whisker of claiming a swift response through Whitten. After a slick handling move from the hosts, the ball was worked from left to right to Nowell. He in turn fed Whitten, who, despite taking the ball at pace, was adjudged - via the TV match official - to have been felled just short of the line.
Steenson was sent to the sin-bin on 28 minutes for a deliberate knockdown, and it allowed Goode to extend the visitors' lead to 10 points with a routine penalty.
Although down a man, the Chiefs again responded brightly as they threatened the visiting line once more. Saracens did well to swamp the home attacks, but, when a scrum was dropped by prop Richard Barrington, it allowed Dollman to land Exeter's first points of the day with a 22-metre penalty.
But, no sooner had Rob Baxter's side brought themselves back to within range, they conceded a needless penalty in front of their own posts for pulling back, and up stepped Goode to slot the resultant kick.
With 10 points to make up, the Devon club knew they needed a strong start to the second period - and they got it as Steenson landed an early penalty after the visitors were pulled up for not releasing following strong breaks from Dean Mumm, Nowell and Dave Ewers.
But once again they let Saracens counter through Argentinian centre Bosch, whose penalty from just inside his own half just snuck over via the crossbar.
Steenson and Bosch both saw further penalty chances fail to hit the target, before the Chiefs threatened again, and the home side's efforts were finally rewarded with 10 minutes remaining as Steenson landed a third penalty.
The Chiefs now had the bit between their teeth and, when Nowell created havoc with a superb kick return, the home side worked the ball through countless phases to Johnson, who appeared to crash over for a crucial score.
Again referee Tim Wigglesworth went upstairs for the spot check - and again the TMO ruled against Exeter.
Fri 24th Apr
Bath43 - 18London Irish
Sat 25th Apr
Sale Sharks0 - 0Harlequins
Gloucester0 - 0Newcastle Falcons
Leicester Tigers0 - 0London Welsh
Northampton0 - 0Saracens
Sun 26th Apr
Wasps0 - 0Exeter
Fri 8th May
Harlequins0 - 0Bath
Sat 9th May
Sale Sharks0 - 0Newcastle Falcons
Gloucester0 - 0London Irish
Northampton0 - 0London Welsh
Wasps0 - 0Leicester Tigers
Sun 10th May
Saracens0 - 0Exeter
Sat 16th May
Bath0 - 0Gloucester
Exeter0 - 0Sale Sharks
Leicester Tigers0 - 0Northampton
London Irish0 - 0Wasps
London Welsh0 - 0Saracens
Newcastle Falcons0 - 0Harlequins
Aviva Premiership 2013/14 Round Eight
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young apologised to the home supporters following Bath's comprehensive win at Adams Park.
Bath extended their winning run to seven matches in all competitions with a convincing 28-5 victory against Wasps.
Jim Mallinder says the severity of a knee injury suffered by England full-back Ben Foden has yet to be determined.