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Chiefs go second


Gareth Steenson was Exeter's hero, kicking nine penalties from nine attempts in the defeat of Saracens

Gareth Steenson was Exeter's hero, kicking nine penalties from nine attempts in the defeat of Saracens

Gareth Steenson was Exeter's hero, kicking nine penalties from nine attempts in the defeat of Saracens

Exeter moved up to second in the Aviva Premiership with a deserved 27-19 victory over Saracens at Sandy Park.

Gareth Steenson was the Chiefs' hero, kicking nine penalties from nine attempts as his pack won the forward battle to send the visitors tumbling to a second defeat in six days.

The Saracens pack were given a torrid time, especially in the set scrum in the first half, with their prop James Johnston yellow-carded after conceding numerous penalties.

The visitors were out of sorts and made numerous errors, having to rely on Charlie Hodgson's four penalties and a last minute try by Maro Itoje - converted by Ben Spencer - for their points.

Despite last week's home over Wasps, Exeter made three changes to their starting line-up with Sam Hill, Ben Moon and Moray Low resuming in place of Ian Whitten, Carl Rimmer and Tomas Francis.

Saracens, defeated at home by Northampton last Sunday, brought Jacques Burger, Ernst Joubert, Johnston and Mouritz Botha into their pack whilst Duncan Taylor for Nick Tompkins was the only change behind the scrum.

Exeter began strongly, taking a fourth-minute lead when Steenson kicked a simple penalty.

Chiefs continued to have the better of the opening period but Saracens had the next chance for points with Hodgson making no mistake with a difficult penalty attempt.

Steenson put Exeter back in front with his second penalty before his poor clearance kick caused his team-mates to concede a penalty, which Hodgson kicked to make it 6-6 at the end of the first quarter.

Simple errors continued unabated and immediately from the restart Saracens carelessly conceded another penalty, which Steenson posted.

The visitors then surrendered further points when Will Fraser's poor handling gave Exeter a scrum; Sarries infringed by dropping and Steenson was again on target.

Another scrum offence saw another success for Steenson as the visitors struggled to get a foothold into the game. They conceded a further scrummage penalty and from the resulting line-out drive, Dave Ewers drove for the line but the TMO ruled no try as the replay proved inconclusive.

A five-metre scrum was the award and Saracens just could not repel the pressure. They gave away two penalties in quick succession and were fortunate not to have a penalty try awarded against them.

However Saracens tighthead Johnston, was yellow carded and Steenson kicked his sixth penalty for an 18-6 half-time lead.

After the restart, Hodgson fired over his third penalty but this was nullified by Steenson's seventh success.

Mako Vunipola, returning after a lengthy injury lay-off, was introduced by the visitors to replace Rhys Gill - and he was just in time to see Hodgson reduce the arrears with another penalty.

Johnston did not return from the sin-bin as he was replaced by Juan Figallo, with the visitors bringing on Kelly Brown and Itoje in an attempt to improve their performance.

Their scrum was certainly better and they should have closed the gap but a penalty from Hodgson hit a post and rebounded out.

With 15 minutes remaining, Steenson made it eight from eight to give his side a 24-12 lead, which allowed his side to control the remaining period as Saracens never looked like clawing back the advantage.

Steenson kicked his ninth goal before with the last movement of the match, Itoje scored a consolation try for the visitors which Spencer converted.