Exeter 20-22 Saracens: England manager Eddie Jones is left to sweat over the fitness of Owen Farrell and Luke Cowan-Dickie for the autumn schedule after BOTH were forced to withdraw during the fierce Premier League clash

  • Saracens overcome Exeter to maintain their winning start to the Premier League season
  • Alex Hood’s carefree penalty in stoppage time sealed the victory
  • Henry Slade’s penalty in the 76th minute looked to have won it for the Chiefs

It was a scrap that left English rugby with more casualties than the Conservative government.

A ding-dong in the West Country who can strip Eddie Jones two of its leaders at the beginning of the autumn internationals. It was a game in which Henry Slade nearly fired Exeter to a late win, but their lead held long enough to make Westminster proud.

Owen Farrell was knocked out in the second half after colliding with Joe Simmonds’ knee. He has struggled to get back on his feet and now faces at least 12 days out, making him a doubt for England’s first test against Argentina on November 6.

Three medics immediately came to the aid of the number 10 before he returned from the medical room to watch Alex Hood score the winning points for Saracens in the final game.

Owen Farrell lays down injured during the match between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens

“Owen is with the doctors now,” Saracens manager Mark McCall confirmed an hour after the final whistle.

Apparently he went to AZV and the usual procedure is a 12 day suspension. Hopefully that will give him enough time to play in the first Test. i guess [whether he travels to Jersey on Sunday] it will all depend on whether he does well, I’m sure Eddie would love to get him there.”

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie also failed to go the distance. Exeter coach Ali Heffer admitted his captain could not play further but was unable to offer any further details on the extent of the injury.

Cowen-Dickie expressed his frustration as he took off at half-time after his side failed to convert their early pressure.

Farrell was sin-binned five minutes later for a trip on Jack Nowell, but Saracens won a key loss on their line. They were energized by their defensive stance and took the lead after an early penalty from Slade when Theo McFarland finished off a slick attacking display.

Next, Mako Vunipola was convicted of the sin of knocking down the mall. Exeter were awarded a try from the penalty spot, but again failed to add to their numerical advantage. They converted a penalty which allowed Elliot Daly to level the score at 10-all from long range before the break.

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie also missed the whole match due to injury

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie also missed the whole match due to injury

When Exeter’s No.10 Harvey Skinner was booked early in the second half, Saracens started to cruise towards their sixth straight win of the season. Farrell kicked two more penalties before limping off while Daly extended his lead with his longest kick of the season.

But late turnarounds are common in this league and Exeter began to crawl back. Jacques Vermeulen scored a try after 13 bruising stages. Days after being snubbed by England, Slade added the conversion before confidently leveling the scores to take the lead with a 76th-minute penalty.

“There was no doubt in Henry’s mind that he was the right fit,” Heffer said. “It’s a challenge when you have three or four guys who can kick fantastically well. He was an 80 percent kicker his entire career, but we had Garrett Stinson and Joe Simmonds.

“I was fully confident that he would kick that kick. He’s already made some good strides in training to get back to his best. We fought until the end. These games come down to tight margins and we just have to be more clinical.”

Slade was on course for the man of the match award but Saracens struck and won it at the death. With two seconds left, their front-row replacement scored and Patrick Schickerling was penalized for scrambling.

And the veteran Hood stepped up without nervousness, snuffing out the whistle to win the game with his first hit of the season.

“Whether we deserved to win I’m not sure, but we showed great fighting qualities,” said McCall, whose unbeaten side have a five-point lead over Sale at the Premier League summit.

“We were reduced to 14 men twice and I liked the way we did it. It says a lot about Alex Hood that he was willing to take responsibility on his shoulders.”