Exeter inflicted a record top-flight defeat on defending Premiership champions Saracens as they ran amok at Sandy Park. Rob Baxter’s side were in scintillating form, running in 11 tries including a hat-trick for Josh Hodge as they won 65-10.
In a dominant display from start to finish, Saracens simply had no answer to the power, pace and precision of Exeter – who bagged a bonus point by the 16th minute and led 41-0 at half-time.
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Handed what seemed a tough assignment in the season curtain-raiser, the new and youthful Chiefs were quickly into their attacking stride and scored in the first minute, winger Immanuel Feyi-Waboso finishing off a slick attack when he raced onto an audacious pass from Harvey Skinner down the right flank.
Moments later and with Sarries skipper Alex Lozowski in the sin-bin, Exeter struck again, No 8 Greg Fisilau attaching himself to the back of a close-range lineout to double the lead.
Saracens were seemingly all at sea, struggling to contain the relentless waves attacks. Debutant Ethan Roots bagged a third try, picking up from a few metres out, before Tom Hendrickson brought up the bonus point when he was put through by Henry Slade, who had latched onto a clever chip over the top from Tom Cairns.
England international Slade got in on the try-scoring act himself, picking off a pass in midfield to race clear from halfway and extend Exeter’s lead to 29-0. There was no let-up from Chief’s as they headed towards the break, Hodge helping himself to a quickfire double – the second after breaking four tackles on the end of a scintillating cross-field move.
The break could not have come at a better time for Saracens and they used the respite as an opportunity to not only regroup, but fathom out a new game plan for the second half. Whatever was said, it initially had the desired effect as replacement Andy Christie and Alex Lewington combined nicely to send Olly Hartley cantering down the left wing for the score.
It was the spark Saracens had craved, but Exeter were soon back on the offensive themselves. Fisilau was held up on the line but Hodge claimed his hat-trick score with a jet-propelled burst from deep inside his own half. Not content with that, the Chiefs continued to pile forward in numbers, bullying Saracens into submission with a brutal assault from all angles. The home pack did much of the donkey work, easing them to within sight of the line, the fruits of which were finished off by Rusi Tuima.
To their credit, Saracens refused to throw in the towel, picking themselves off the floor to land a late blow of their own through Sean Maitland. It was, however, a little too late in the grand scheme of things.
Indeed, it was the home side who would put the shine on a polished performance, bagging two more tries in the dying minutes through replacements Ross Vintcent and Niall Armstrong.
The high-profile Bath signing Finn Russell made his debut as a first-half replacement but it was the captain, Ben Spencer, who was the star of the show with a hat-trick of tries in a 34-26 win over Newcastle at The Rec. The home side touched down six times in all, the other tries going to Alfie Barbeary, Cameron Redpath and Will Muir, while Spencer also landed two conversions.
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Newcastle, with nothing like Bath’s spending power, caused the home side no end of trouble at the breakdown and scored three tries through Matías Orlando, Ben Stevenson and Jamie Blamire.
Finn Russell (centre) enjoys his debut for Bath as they beat Newcastle 34-26. Photograph: Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images
A last-minute try from replacement Jamal Ford-Robinson saw Gloucester edge a thrilling 29-28 comeback victory over Harlequins. Quins looked set to win until replacement Jarrod Evans was sent to the sin-bin in added time, which allowed the home side to regroup and steal victory.
Arthur Clark, Lewis Ludlow – on his 200th appearance for the club –and George McGuigan also touched down for Gloucester with George Barton kicking a penalty and three conversions. Will Evans, Alex Dombrandt and Luke Northmore scored tries for Harlequins. Will Edwards added two conversions with Jarrod Evans kicking three penalties.