|Aviva Premiership Final|
|Exeter Chiefs (3) 10|
|Try: Steenson Pen: J Simmonds Con: Steenson|
|Saracens (12) 27|
|Tries: B Vunipola, Wyles 2, Earle Pen: Spencer Cons: Farrell 2|
Saracens regained their Premiership title, winning a fourth final against holders Exeter at Twickenham.
Two Chris Wyles tries in his last game before retirement and scores from Billy Vunipola and Nathan Earle won it for them after a sluggish start.
Gareth Steenson scored Chiefs’ only try as Sarries survived losing Schalk Brits to the sin-bin in the closing quarter.
In a repeat of the 2016 showpiece, Saracens took the trophy in their fourth final in the past five years.
Exeter, who finished eight points clear of second-placed Saracens in the regular season, could not build on a dominant opening 10 minutes where a solitary penalty from Joe Simmonds was all they had to show for it on the scoreboard.
As Saracens looked set for a difficult afternoon, Mark McCall’s side turned the game on its head with two tries in the space of four first-half minutes.
Number eight Vunipola put an injury-disrupted season behind him with their first try before USA international Wyles was set free from 20 metres out by quick hands from Alex Goode and Sean Maitland.
Exeter hung in the contest, going in at the break 12-3 behind, but Wyles’ second score seven minutes after the restart put Saracens 16 points clear.
After hooker Brits was shown a yellow card in his final Saracens appearance, all Exeter’s numerical advantage could produce was Steenson’s score from close range.
Replacement winger Earle, who departs for Harlequins in the summer, then exploited tired Chiefs legs to add a fourth try in the closing moments.
Saracens add fourth title to trophy cabinet
At times this season, a fourth Premiership title might have seemed a far-flung prospect for Saracens.
During a difficult spell in November and December, McCall’s men lost seven successive matches in all competitions.
But they found a hot streak of form in the closing third of the campaign and a clinical knack for beating teams when not exactly at their free-flowing best.
The timely return of Billy Vunipola from another injury set-back, plus a reinvigorated contingent including Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell, after a disappointing Six Nations campaign for England, gave them the added edge in play-off rugby.
That big-game experience was also epitomised by the likes of Wyles, Brits and scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, who became the first player to win five Premiership titles.
Chiefs fail to find final piece of jigsaw
Exeter made a dominant start to the final in all facets except for on the scoreboard.
While they enjoyed a relentless spell of possession and territory in the first 15 minutes, they only had one Joe Simmonds penalty to show for it.
The young fly-half, chosen ahead of Chiefs veteran Steenson, also missed a second, seemingly straightforward, attempt on a breezy afternoon.
Despite that miss, everything seemed to be heading in the men from Devon’s direction as Saracens had just 1% possession in their nightmare start.
But that was to be the last time Chiefs found themselves both in the ascendancy and in the lead as the Saracens storm began to brew.
In-form players such as number eight Sam Simmonds and flanker Don Armand failed to impose themselves on the contest.
Baxter’s frustration was evident as he made a raft of changes 10 minutes into the second half, including removing fly-half Simmonds from the action.
It was a disappointing end to the season for Exeter, who failed to execute their possession-based strategy on one of the hardest-working defences in Europe.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told BBC Sport:
“This win feels special for a couple of reasons.
“From where we were in December after losing three Premiership games in a row, as a group we were calm and composed and fought our way through that period.
“I’m also pleased because of the quality of the performance, It feels like it’s our best final performance because of the quality of the opposition we played today.
“I think the players would say it felt brilliant on the field. We were so alive and I felt it was a top-class performance.”
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter:
“Finals are about the winners and that’s really how we should be focusing now.
“Saracens were very good and they put their best game out there on the park today.
“Their management of the game and the moments they came up with and how they exploited that pressure into points was very, very good. We didn’t handle that well enough on the day.
“I can be churlish and go on about our own performance and the bits and pieces we didn’t do very well, but a lot of that comes down to Saracens.
“Some of the things we did wrong you can put down to pressure on the scoreboard and the good things Saracens were doing. That’s what we’ve got to learn from.”
Exeter Chiefs: Turner; Nowell, Slade, S Hill, Woodburn; J Simmonds, White; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Francis, Lees, J Hill, Ewers, Armand (capt), S Simmonds.
Replacements: Yeandle, Moon, Holmes, Skinner, Waldrom, Townsend, Steenson, Whitten.
Saracens: Goode; Maitland, Lozowski, Barritt (capt), Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Kruis, Isiekwe, Wray, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Brits, Barrington, Figallo, Skelton, Rhodes, Spencer, Bosch, Earle.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU).
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