Chiefs stun sorry Sarries
October 30, 2010
Ryan Davis is congratulated after scoring
© Getty Images
Exeter Chiefs ended a run of three straight defeats with a shock 23-9 victory over Saracens at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon.
Ryan Davis' first-half try helped the Aviva Premiership newcomers into a 10-3 advantage at the break and although the boot of Alex Goode kept Sarries in touch, the Chiefs were incredibly able to coast to their first away victory in the top flight after prop Brett Sturgess dotted with nine minutes to play.
In a week of massive media attention surrounding Saracens' signing of Wales star Gavin Henson, Goode declared his intention to show that he would take some shifting from the No.10 jersey. However, his first opportunity to shine ended in disappointment as he hooked a seventh-minute penalty, awarded by referee Rob Debney for offside. Otherwise the opening 10 minutes belonged to Exeter, who pressed their hosts back into their final third and forced them to defend in numbers.
Goode and scrum-half Neil de Kock engineered a break-out which led to a scrum inside Exeter's 22. But marshalled well by captain Tom Hayes, Exeter stood firm, and Davis cleared his lines.
Saracens began the day knowing a five-point victory haul in their 300th Premiership match would return them to the top of the table, albeit possibly for only 24 hours, but Exeter were in no mood to play the role of awe-struck new boys. And they took a deserved lead after 20 minutes when Debny penalised Saracens at a ruck, with Davis steering home the penalty from 40 metres.
When Saracens did build a head of steam, too much of their attacking work was lateral, allowing Exeter to stand off and hit the first player willing to attempt breaking the line. However, they levelled after 26 minutes when Goode fired over a penalty awarded for coming into a ruck at the side, a score that roused the home support to match the enthusiastic noise generated by the visiting fans.
The game gradually developed into a kicking contest as both teams sought territory via long-range kicks to touch. But nobody could begrudge Exeter the half-time lead they achieved when Davis dummied to pass to his right, waited for the gates to open and darted through the gap, adding the conversion off the inside of an upright.
Saracens introduced England wing David Strettle for Noah Cato at half-time, but it was Exeter straight back on the offensive and they were unlucky when a fine break involving Hayes and Mark Foster broke down in front of the home line through lack of support for Richard Baxter.
Goode cut the lead by three when Exeter were caught offside, his 40-metre penalty flying straight between the posts. But Davis struck in kind after 56 minutes with another calmly taken penalty after Saracens were penalised at a ruck.
It summed up Saracens' performance when they butchered two try-scoring opportunities in one sustained series of phases as Exeter hung on for dear life. In the end, Goode kicked his third penalty after 64 minutes, but it was scant reward for such pressure.
It was Saracens' best spell of the game, and Exeter were fortunate when an attempted clearance kick was charged down near their line only for Davis to hack it clear - and spark a breakaway attack. The danger was snuffed out because Baxter's kick-ahead was too hard and the defence covered easily.
Saracens launched yet another attack from close to half way, and paid the penalty for another sloppy pass. Exeter intercepted and loosehead prop Sturgess darted up the left and managed to get over the line despite being hit by two tacklers.
Davis added the conversion with seven minutes remaining, heralding the upset of the weekend, and he nailed the lid shut on the title-chasers with a third penalty three minutes from time.
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