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Aviva Premiership match report - Saracens claim bonus point win over Exeter
Saracens celebrated the first Aviva Premiership game at their new Allianz Park home with a resounding 31-11 triumph over a struggling Exeter.
Having seen their eight-match unbeaten run end at the hands of London Irish Sarries bounced back to winning ways in emphatic fashion, claiming a bonus point in the first league fixture to be played on an artificial turf pitch.
Charlie Hodgson touched down while props Matt Stevens and Mako Vunipola, who marked his return from England duty with a brace, also crossed.
Such a scoreline didn't look on the cards at half time when the hosts only led 7-3, though the margin could have been much more if Hodgson had not been so profligate off the tee.
The experienced fly-half failed with three attempts at the posts in the opening 40 minutes, the last of his misses coming after full-back Ben Ransom's break had resulted in opposite number Luke Arscott being sin-binned for coming in at the side.
In the end the former Sale Shark decided the best way to put points on the board was to just cross the try-line, quick ball from a ruck allowing him to dummy his way through a huge hole in the Exeter line.
Having kicked a penalty to break the deadlock in the 25th minute, Chiefs fly-half Gareth Steenson missed the chance to close the gap right before the interval when he pushed a three-pointer wide.
Hodgson seemed to find his kicking boots in the changing room at half time as he landed a 43rd minute penalty to extend the gap before they put the game beyond their opponents with two quick-fire tries from a pair of unlikely scorers.
Exeter's failure to secure line-out ball near their own line led to Stevens ploughing over and although Steenson popped up with a penalty at the other end, Vunipola's maiden Premiership try put the game beyond the visitors.
Just like London buses, the Wellington-born front-rower didn't have too long to wait for his second. A smart offload from winger David Strettle put his team-mate into enough space on the left to force his way through.
To their credit, the Chiefs continued to fight to the death, flanker Richard Baxter tumbling over the line from a ruck to give them a consolation try. Steenson converted to round out the scoring, but it couldn't take the gloss off a thoroughly enjoyable homecoming for Sarries.
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|Sunday 28th December|
|14:30||Gloucester vs Wasps|
|Friday 2nd January|
|19:45||Northampton vs Newcastle Falcons|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Saracens vs London Irish|
|16:30||Exeter vs Gloucester|
|Sunday 4th January|
|14:00||Wasps vs Sale|
|14:00||Leicester Tigers vs Bath|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Harlequins|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:45||Gloucester vs Saracens|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:00||Sale vs Northampton|
|15:00||Bath vs Wasps|
|15:15||Harlequins vs Leicester Tigers|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Newcastle Falcons vs London Welsh|
|15:00||London Irish vs Exeter|
|Saturday 14th February|
|15:00||Leicester vs Gloucester|
|15:00||Exeter vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Northampton vs London Irish|
|Sunday 15th February|
|14:00||Wasps vs Harlequins|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Sale|
|15:00||Saracens vs Bath|
|Friday 20th February|
|20:00||Newcastle vs Wasps|
|Saturday 21st February|
|14:00||Sale vs Saracens|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Exeter|
|15:00||London Irish vs Leicester|
|15:00||Bath vs Northampton|
|15:00||Gloucester vs London Welsh|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com