Nick de Jager admits Saracens rocked up to Allianz Park on a mission as the flanker’s try-double helped seal a 35-18 victory over Exeter Chiefs and an LV= Cup home semi-final.
Sarries were not even guaranteed a last-four place, let alone a tie in front of their own fans, but they rallied in the second half to top the Chiefs and book a clash against Northampton Saints next month.
Exeter responded to Tim Streather’s early touchdown through Sam Skinner and Tom James either side of half-time.
However, a flurry of tries from Sarries courtesy of de Jager, Catalin Fercu and Matt Hankin all but wrapped up the match with 20 minutes still to play.
Man of the match de Jager said: “That was fantastic, the guys came out with a goal in mind and we really pulled it together, it was a fantastic effort. It was great guts shown by the boys.
“The LV= Cup is majorly important, there are guys with a big squad like we’ve got, guys need game time and guys need an opportunity to show themselves and what they’ve got.
“It’s not just a Premiership thing it’s a team thing at Saracens and all the way down to A-League is equally important.
“It was great to score the tries, the first was a bit of an easy try but I’m happy.”
Chiefs are aiming to lift the LV=Cup for a second time after it became their first piece of major silverware in their history last year but must travel to Leicester Tigers to reach the Franklin’s Gardens final.
The Tigers are in imperious form, having thumped Cardiff Blues 43-9 away from home on Saturday, but Exeter skills coach Ricky Pellow is confident his troops can rise to the occasion.
“We’re a bit frustrated, Saracens played really well and we know it would be a pressure game in terms of territory,” he said. “We were in it for about 55 minutes and slipped off a few tackles and gave away a few silly penalties.
“Fair play to Saracens, they punished us in that ten minutes and we struggled to get back into the game after that.
“Coming here was a tough game and we know we are going to have to go up to Leicester and really put in a shift to get a result there.
“We’ll reset, we’re back in the Premiership next week against Newcastle, and for this group of players it’s been a really pleasing couple of weeks.
“We didn’t do it here but this group of guys have got some rugby, and hopefully we’ll go to Leicester and put a performance up there as well.”
Saracens: Ransom (Palamo 72), Ellery, Streather, Wilkins (Goode 51), Fercu, Mordt, Spencer (Whiteley 71), Gill (Barrington 40), Saunders (Sharman 40), Alo (Featherstone 71), Itoje (O’Neill 71), Smith (Thompson 40), de Jager, Hankin, Wray
Exeter Chiefs: McGuigan, Vainikolo, Bodilly, Hughes (Arnott 54), James, Sweeney, Lewis (Chudley 57), Sturgess (Rimmer 58), Taione (Bateman 58), Francis, Sexton (Holmes 59), Carrick-Smith, Johnson, Simmonds, Skinner (White 49)
Saracens 35 Exeter Chiefs 18
Tries: Streather, de Jager 2, Fercu, Hankin
Conversions: Spencer 5
Tries: Skinner, James
Penalties: Sweeney 2
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Tickets for this year's LV= Cup Final on 22 March at Franklin's Gardens are now on sale. Click here to snap one up from just £20 for adults, £10 for juniors to see who will win the first silverware of the season.