Owen Farrell injury dampens Saracens’ mood after last minute win at Exeter

Saracens hadn’t won here in the Premiership since 2016 – a five-match losing streak, including a brutal play-off semi-final in 2017 – and received some boos when Farrell led them into the drizzle of Devon.

Ben Earl forced a turnover early on, but Farrell’s reaction to a late start by Harry Williams caused Tom Foley to overturn the penalty. Poor discipline had crippled Saracens at Sandy Park a year ago and Farrell was condemned to sin moments later when he stopped an Exeter attack from an offside position by tripping Jack Nowell.

Chiefs fans rose to their feet to applaud Farrell towards the sideline, but they will have been frustrated for the next 10 minutes as a combination of tireless tackling and solid defense on the sideline kept the score 0-0. . A maul rotation was Farrell’s cue to return, to more boos, as Stuart Hogg jogged in the opposite direction for a head injury evaluation (HIA).

On a wet surface, the scrums were a disaster and the first quarter ended with neither side finding flow. However, after an effective carry by the combative Jacques Vermeulen, Exeter had the first scoring opportunity and Henry Slade hit from 45 metres.

That would only wake the Saracens. From a scrum around the halfway line, Alex Lozowski lobbed a punt pass to Elliot Daly who fed Max Malins. As the ball traveled back across the Chiefs 22, Farrell sent McFarland sprinting before converting the try.

Nowell remained normally busy and popped into midfield to take out a Ben Earl penalty for a high tackle. Slade went to the corner but Farrell dug in and Exeter fouled out. Having passed his HIA, Hogg roused the crowd with a break. Daly covered well.

More noise from Nowell earned another penalty and a short-range lineout. This time, the Chiefs’ momentum picked up steam. With the Saracens hopelessly divided, Mako Vunipola dragged the melee. Foley immediately brandished the yellow card and needed a single replay to award a penalty trial as well.

Exeter looked poised to take a slim lead at half-time until Maro Itoje slid through a flurry and unloaded on Ivan van Zyl. Chiefs couldn’t get away from the tackle and Daly fixed it with the final act of a convincing 40 minutes.

Having spent most of the first period absorbing pressure, Saracens immediately invited more. Nowell was the catalyst again, collecting a pass from Slade and executing the restart from 50 metres.

Dave Ewers lunged at Nick Tompkins for a break penalty and Exeter was in the corner again. Jack Yeandle, in place of Cowan-Dickie, couldn’t drive his shot straight enough.

Still the hosts pressed. Slade was forced to play by Daly after diving to pick up Hogg’s grubber and Christ Tshiunza’s charge also required the Saracens to put up a desperate fight.

Just before Mako Vunipola returned, an early tackle allowed Saracens precious field position. Exeter’s defense held out until another pick and go from Itoje. Slade made a brave tackle, but Harvey Skinner received a yellow card for a ruck offence. Farrell’s kick put Saracens ahead 13-10.

Hogg spilled a high ball and was quickly replaced, much to his obvious frustration. The Scottish full-back shrugged at his coaches in the stands. Saracens, meanwhile, forced another controversial break penalty, which Farrell landed for a six-point lead.

McCall’s men were beginning to turn the screw, but they would have to sail the final quarter without their skipper. As a poor pass from Van Zyl skidded across the turf, a lunging Farrell was accidentally caught by Joe Simmonds’ knee. Goode entered the fray.

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