It could be considered somewhat bad timing for a top of the table clash to take place on an international weekend but as defending champions Exeter Chiefs snatched a late win over Saracens to solidify their Premiership lead, it certainly wasn’t for a lack of intensity.
Despite the absence of the likes of Maro Itoje, Alex Lozowski, Jamie George and Owen Farrell for the hosts, not to mention Henry Slade and Sam Simmonds for Exeter, there was plenty of international experience on display in north London, including a Test experienced second row for Saracens of British and Irish Lions and England lock George Kruis and former Australian international Will Skelton.
There was plenty of incentive for both sides outside of finishing the match on as Premiership leaders; Saracens having only surrendered to their second loss of the competition, thus far this season last weekend to Gloucester.
It was also the visitors’ chance to break Saracens impressive Premiership home winning record as a win would have seen them take a 20th consecutive win in the competition.
And of course there was the matter of the Chiefs and Saracens’ last meeting being last season’s Premiership semi-final which also saw the Devon side snatch the win at the death.
Having a point to prove from the defeat at Kingsholm, Saracens snapped into form after Exeter drew first blood via a penalty from the boot of fly half Gareth Steenson, with two tries scored just five minutes apart from full-back Alex Goode and the seemingly ever-present and ever-classy hooker Schalk Brits at nine and 14 minutes respectively.
Towards the half-hour mark Chiefs pressed and spent longs periods camped on the hosts’ line, again showing a desire to atone for their previous outing, their defence was imperious with fly half Max Malins, making his first Premiership start, playing his part to keep the score at 15-3 heading into half time.
The final minutes were frantic but Exeter looked to have the edge but Saracens battled in the dying moments attempting to put together phases of attack only to be thwarted by the Chiefs.