Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Why Exeter Chiefs Can Stop the Saracens Machine And Lift The Premiership Trophy

Posted on 30 November 2018 by Robert Sutton

Since rugby union’s Premiership began in 1987, there has often been one team that has dominated over a period of time.

In the 1990s, Bath were the powerhouse before a period of dominance from Wasps and Leicester Tigers during the 2000s where the two clubs were champions for 11 out of 12 seasons.

Those three clubs though have fallen away in recent years, Bath and Leicester are now both in the bottom half of the Premiership while Wasps have had to move from Wycombe to Coventry to try and recapture former glories.

The club of the 2010s have been Saracens. Premiership champions four times (2011, 2015, 2016 and 2018), runners-up twice (2010 and 2014) and back-to-back champions of Europe in 2016 and 2017.

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There is a new force in English rugby. While Saracens were losing the 2010 Premiership final in dramatic circumstances to Leicester, Exeter Chiefs defeated Bristol 38-16 on aggregate in the two-legged Championship play off final.

Having proved all the doubters wrong by avoiding relegation in their first Premiership season, Chiefs broke into the Premiership playoffs in 2016 and despite losing to Saracens in the final, they have not looked back.

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In 2017, they came through a thrilling extra time final against Wasps to be crowned Premiership champions for the first time. Last season, they finished top of the table following the regular season but Saracens proved too strong in the final.

This season though Exeter have looked unstoppable in the Premiership. They have eight wins from eight matches, scored 36 tries with only 13 conceded and have an unbelievable points difference of +120.

They have already won away from home against two of last season’s semi finalists (Wasps & Newcastle Falcons) and thrashed Leicester 40-6 on the opening weekend of the season.

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One of the reasons for this is their formidable home record. Only Worcester triumphed at Sandy Park last season in the Premiership and it has always been a venue where teams struggle. The crowd are hugely influential and anyone who has made the trip to Devon will have left with the Tomahawk Chop ringing in their ears.

Former Wasps and France flanker, Serge Betsen, also believes that Exeter can topple Saracens and regain the Premiership title.

Speaking to bwin, he said: “I think that the Exeter Chiefs will win the Premiership this season. They are playing exceptionally well as a unit and that is what is needed to win the Premiership.”

“Exeter deserve every win they get because they put in the hard work as a team and compete for every second of the game.”

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Exeter are yet to really make an impression on the European Cup and once again are up against in their pool, following defeat to Castres and a draw with Munster.

This could, however, work in their favour. Exeter were eliminated from the pool stages in 2017 and by the time the Premiership play-offs came around, Saracens (who had won the Champions Cup) looked fatigued allowing Exeter to beat them in the semi final.

The Chiefs look a better side on paper in 2018-19 and will push Saracens all the way, regardless how far the London side go in Europe. With Stuart Hogg signed up from next season, there are definite signs that the next dynasty in Premiership rugby could be coming from the South West.

Featured image: Telegraph Rugby