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Aviva Premiership: Saracens beat Exeter Chiefs to stay top
- Saturday's Aviva Prem preview
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Saracens battled their way to a 16-9 victory over Exeter at Sandy Park to stay top of the Aviva Premiership.
Ben Ransom's first-half try, together with kicks from Alex Goode and Marcelo Bosch, ensured Mark McCall's men picked up their sixth victory of the campaign.
Rob Baxter's Chiefs countered with three penalties of their own through Gareth Steenson (two) and Phil Dollman, and were twice denied potential tries - through Ian Whitten and Tom Johnson - by TV match official David Sainsbury.
Saracens lost fly-half Charlie Hodgson to a blow to the head early on and it was Exeter who looked to set the early tone in attack. Winger Jack Nowell's first real raid brought an early penalty chance for the home side, but Steenson was unable to land the lengthy kick.
The visitors made the most of that let-off and took the lead when Ransom, on as the replacement for Hodgson, applied the finish following a surging run from Chris Ashton that cut through the heart of the home defence. Goode added the extras to give the Londoners a seven-point advantage.
The Chiefs rallied well and came within a whisker of claiming a swift response through Whitten. After a slick handling move from the hosts, the ball was worked from left to right to Nowell. He in turn fed Whitten, who, despite taking the ball at pace, was adjudged - via the TV match official - to have been felled just short of the line.
Steenson was sent to the sin-bin on 28 minutes for a deliberate knockdown, and it allowed Goode to extend the visitors' lead to 10 points with a routine penalty.
Although down a man, the Chiefs again responded brightly as they threatened the visiting line once more. Saracens did well to swamp the home attacks, but, when a scrum was dropped by prop Richard Barrington, it allowed Dollman to land Exeter's first points of the day with a 22-metre penalty.
But, no sooner had Rob Baxter's side brought themselves back to within range, they conceded a needless penalty in front of their own posts for pulling back, and up stepped Goode to slot the resultant kick.
With 10 points to make up, the Devon club knew they needed a strong start to the second period - and they got it as Steenson landed an early penalty after the visitors were pulled up for not releasing following strong breaks from Dean Mumm, Nowell and Dave Ewers.
But once again they let Saracens counter through Argentinian centre Bosch, whose penalty from just inside his own half just snuck over via the crossbar.
Steenson and Bosch both saw further penalty chances fail to hit the target, before the Chiefs threatened again, and the home side's efforts were finally rewarded with 10 minutes remaining as Steenson landed a third penalty.
The Chiefs now had the bit between their teeth and, when Nowell created havoc with a superb kick return, the home side worked the ball through countless phases to Johnson, who appeared to crash over for a crucial score.
Again referee Tim Wigglesworth went upstairs for the spot check - and again the TMO ruled against Exeter.
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|Friday 13th February|
|19:45||Leicester vs Gloucester|
|19:45||Northampton vs London Irish|
|Saturday 14th February|
|16:30||Exeter vs Newcastle|
|Sunday 15th February|
|13:00||Saracens vs Bath|
|14:00||Wasps vs Harlequins|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Sale|
|Friday 20th February|
|19:45||Newcastle vs Wasps|
|Saturday 21st February|
|14:00||Sale vs Saracens|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Exeter|
|15:00||Gloucester vs London Welsh|
|15:15||Bath vs Northampton|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|14:00||London Irish vs Leicester|
|Friday 27th February|
|19:45||Leicester vs Sale|
|19:45||Northampton vs Harlequins|
|Saturday 28th February|
|14:30||London Welsh vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Newcastle|
|15:15||Exeter vs Bath|
|Sunday 1st March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Gloucester|
|Friday 6th March|
|19:45||Bath vs Sale|
|Saturday 7th March|
|15:00||Exeter vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs London Irish|
|15:15||Gloucester vs Northampton|
|Sunday 8th March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Saracens|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Leicester|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:45||Northampton vs Wasps|
|Sunday 11th January|
|London Irish 28 - 26 Exeter|
|Newcastle 38 - 7 London Welsh|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Harlequins 32 - 12 Leicester|
|Bath 39 - 26 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 20 - 7 Northampton|
|Friday 9th January|
|Gloucester 24 - 23 Saracens|
|Sunday 4th January|
|London Welsh 13 - 24 Harlequins|
|Wasps 41 - 16 Sale Sharks|
|Leicester 17 - 8 Bath|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|Exeter 25 - 26 Gloucester|
|Saracens 22 - 6 London Irish|
|Friday 2nd January|
|Northampton 39 - 31 Newcastle|
|Sunday 28th December|
|Gloucester 23 - 30 Wasps|
|Saturday 27th December|
|Harlequins 25 - 30 Northampton|
|Newcastle 23 - 25 Saracens|
|Bath 31 - 14 Exeter|
|Sale Sharks 30 - 32 Leicester|
|Friday 26th December|
|London Irish 24 - 9 London Welsh|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Wasps 48 - 16 London Irish|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Gloucester 16 - 39 Bath|
|Northampton 23 - 19 Leicester|
|Saracens 78 - 7 London Welsh|
|Harlequins 15 - 7 Newcastle|
|Friday 19th December|
|Sale 18 - 11 Exeter|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com