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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 20 February, 2019
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First loss in English Premiership since September for Exeter as Saracens close gap

Sarries took full advantage of Exeter’s loss to Newcastle.

Saracens full-back Alex Goode.
Saracens full-back Alex Goode.

SARACENS TOOK FULL advantage of Exeter Chiefs’ first Premiership loss since September to move within five points of the leaders with victory over Wasps.

A thrilling clash at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday saw a Sarries side bolstered by the returns of Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola run in five tries on their way to a 38-15 away win.

The bonus-point triumph cut Exeter’s lead at the summit after the Chiefs – who had won their last seven league matches – were beaten 28-20 by Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.

Saracens were out of the blocks quickly as tries from Chris Wyles and Alex Goode set them on their way, and when Schalk Burger made it 18-3 after half an hour a comfortable win looked in the offing.

However, third-placed Wasps battled back as Sarries were reduced to 13 when Burger and Owen Farrell were sent to the bin, the England man lucky not to see red for two high tackles in quick succession.

A penalty try and a Willie Le Roux score brought the hosts to within three at the break, but they failed to add to their total after the restart.

Instead it was Sarries on the scoresheet as Goode added his second around kicks from Farrell, with Ben Spencer wrapping things up late on as he converted a flowing move at the second attempt.

Exeter travelled to Newcastle in fine form but they were stunned by the hosts, the Falcons showing why they have now won three-in-a-row at home in all competitions by racking up 25 first-half points.

Wingers Sinoti Sinoti and Niki Goneva showed great pace to both touch down either side of Kyle Cooper powering over from close range.

After a below-par first 40, Exeter came out with renewed spirit and slowly began to chip away at Newcastle’s lead.

Sam Simmonds, Olly Woodburn and Toby Salmon got them within five with three minutes to play, but missed conversions proved costly as Newcastle clung on – Joel Hodgson adding a last-minute penalty to seal a memorable victory.

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