Saracens complete double with stunning comeback in Premiership final
Twickenham (United Kingdom) (AFP) –
Saracens completed their second domestic and European double in three years with the greatest comeback in the history of the English Premiership final as they rallied to beat Exeter 37-34 at Twickenham on Saturday.
When Exeter led by 11 points after an hour it seemed they were about to get revenge for their defeat by Saracens in last season's final.
But Saracens fightback in a 10-try extravaganza left the 2017 champions hopes of a second English title in tatters and gave more reason to believe this Sarries outfit is the best English rugby club side ever.
Watching England coach Eddie Jones would have been both exhilarated and impressed by the part played in this pulsating contest where so many of the stars he will be taking to Japan in later this year were on show trying to prove they deserve to start in the opening game of the World Cup.
But while Exeter threatened to upset the odds when they led 22-16 at the break and controlled the game for long parts, it was Saracens, winners over Irish powerhouse Leinster in last month's European Champions Cup final, who once again came through when it mattered.
The London club lifted their eighth major trophy in as many years -- and their fifth English title - on a sun-drenched day but only after being pushed hard by southwest side Exeter.
- Try in 26 seconds -
Nobody could have expected the dramatic and blistering opening to this contest, with Exeter taking 26 seconds from the kick-off to score the first try.
Wing Alex Cuthbert dropped on the ball and it was recycled to scrum-half Nic White to dart over for a fine score.
Exeter, however, lost Henry Slade to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock on when Alex Goode's pass looked set to send Sean Maitland over the line.
Saracens' forwards stepped up to bull-doze their way across with little bother, and England hooker Jamie George rose to take the plaudits.
England captain Owen Farrell found his range with a penalty to poke Sarries in front and Ben Spencer dived over a try to seemingly put them in control.
But the Chiefs hit back. With Saracens a man down after England lock Maro Itoje was sent to the sin-bin for persistent foul play at the rucks, Exeter flanker Dave Ewers ploughed over for a try.
Fellow back rower Jonny Hill followed with another try and Joe Simmonds' penalty gave Exeter a six point half-time lead.
Exeter seemed to have the game in their grasp when replacement Sam Skinner's outstanding off-load put Slade over for the fourth try.
But when Wales star Liam Williams leapt and caught fly-half Farrell's cross-kick en route to a try, the contest was still alive.
Farrell converted and the team which has become so used to winning showed just why they are so successful.
Applying pressure up the middle and stretching the Chiefs defence, Saracens moved the ball to the left wing for Maitland to force his way over. Farrell's conversion gave them a three point lead into the final 12 minutes.
The sight of England wing Jack Nowell limping off with what seemed a left ankle injury added salt to the Chiefs' wounds.
When George put his head down and charged over for a crucial try four minutes from time, and Farrell converted, Saracens' success was assured.
Sam Hill crashed over for a consolation Exeter try in the dying moments but it was too late to stop Saracens retaining their title.
? 2019 AFP