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Sarries fall to Chiefs
Naqelevuki scored only try of the match at Sandy Park
Saracens suffered their first defeat of the season, going down 14-12 against Exeter at Sandy Park.
Sireli Naqelevuki scored the game's only try after 54 minutes, with the rest of the Chiefs' points coming from three first-half Ignacio Mieres penalties.
All of Sarries' points came from the boot of fly-half Owen Farrell - two penalties in each half - but his efforts were not enough.
The visitors included England international Chris Ashton in their starting line-up, the 25-year-old donning a head bandage after suffering minor cuts to the left side of his face during a brief alteration with a stranger during a night out in London last weekend.
Both teams took time to settle into the game and adjust to the slippery ball before the hosts went close to scoring after 10 minutes when Haydn Thomas charged down a kick from full-back Andy Goode but, after several drives, the Chiefs knocked on at the line.
But having given away several penalties, a couple when in attacking positions, at the breakdown it was Saracens who broke the deadlock when Farrell landed a 25-metre penalty from just to the left of the posts.
Just before the midway point of the half the Chiefs were back on level terms thanks to a 40-metre penalty from Argentina fly-half Mieres, 10 metres in from the right touchline.
But the Chiefs failed to learn from earlier errors and were again penalised at the breakdown as Farrell slotted a 25-metre kick from in front of the posts.
Alistair Hargreaves was penalised soon after but Mieres' 30-metre kick hit the upright.
Just before the half-hour mark, with the Chiefs pressing the line, Sarries skipper Kelly Brown was shown the yellow card by referee Sean Davey and Mieres kicked the resulting penalty and his third a couple of minutes later to put Exeter 9-6 in front at the break.
Farrell, now matching Ashton with a head bandage after having treatment off the field in the first half, levelled the scores with his fourth penalty shortly after the restart before Ashton was sent to the sin-bin for a shoulder-charge on James Phillips, but Mieres failed with the kick.
Exeter took advantage of the extra man with inside centre Naqelevuki taking an offload from wing Matt Jess to score in the corner only for Farrell reduced the arrears with his fourth penalty just before Chiefs hooker Chris Whitehead was yellow carded on the hour.
Both sides continued to mount attacks in the final minutes, with the visitors striving for maximum points. Sarries replacement fly-half Charlie Hodgson kicked for touch rather than attempt a long-range penalty, but it came to nothing.
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John Nolan says...
As a Leinster supporter I note the excellent performance by our upcoming opponents in the HC and think they have a distinct advantage of being collectively up to speed unlike Leinster due to our 'advantage' of player management. That said I also note that yet again the lack of tries by Saracens speaks more about the Aviva Premiership in general, and wonder how Premier Rugby hope to increase their supporter base with dour, forward orientated defensive rugby. From afar their more pressing concern seems to be with increasing their earning power via unilateral TV deals to the exclusion of poorer smaller countries.
Posted 20:33 24th September 2012
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Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com