Titi Lamositele’s late try earned Saracens the most unlikely of draws as they secured a 13-13 result at home to Exeter Chiefs despite playing 70 minutes down a man.
Saracens had got the better of the Chiefs in each of the last four meetings between the sides including a victory at Sandy Park and of course their success in last season’s Aviva Premiership Rugby final.
But they were up against it early on when Richard Barrington was dismissed for a high tackle, and Jack Nowell’s try put the visitors 10-0 up.
But Saracens aren’t champions for nothing and they showed their never-say-die attitude to frustrate Exeter at every turn and slowly work their way back into the game.
Even after Steenson had made it 13-6 to Chiefs, Saracens came back, with Lamositele forcing his way over from a rolling maul and Alex Lozowski converting from out wide to seal the draw.
Exeter started the game on the front foot and found themselves a man up after ten minutes when Barrington was sent off.
The prop caught Geoff Parling with his shoulder and was red-carded as a result, with Gareth Steenson knocking over a penalty to give his side the lead.
With Barrington off, Saracens replaced Sean Maitland with Lamositele, and Chiefs took advantage of the extra space out wide. Steenson, who had missed an early penalty, produced a delightful cross-kick and Nowell brilliantly caught it and dotted down.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) January 7, 2017
Steenson nailed the conversion from out wide and Chiefs led 10-0 with quarter of an hour gone.
Saracens could have cut the deficit only for Alex Lozowski to pull a drop goal attempt wide but he made up for it with a penalty on 23 minutes.
However with their man advantage Exeter continued to press, and it required a desperate last-ditch tackle from Michael Rhodes to stop Don Armand as he looked set to score.
Saracens produced another huge defensive stand to close out the half, forcing a penalty with Exeter pressing to go in just seven points down at 10-3.
The second half was a tight affair, and Saracens cut the deficit to four points, Lozowski slotting a second penalty after a scrum infringement.
Maro Itoje was then pinged at a lineout but Steenson pulled his shot at goal to the left and the nerves went on for the visitors.
Saracens had the chance to grab the lead for the first time when Alex Goode played a grubber through but Chris Wyles couldn’t get there and in the end conceded a penalty for an intentional knock-on as he stretched for the ball.
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) January 7, 2017
A second chance then went begging as Lozowski’s kick through just beat Wyles into touch once again.
Instead it was Steenson who pushed Exeter’s lead back to seven points with a penalty as Saracens were penalised for not rolling away.
But still Saracens would not give up, and replacement prop Lamositele was the man to emerge after an unstoppable driving maul. Lozowski knocked over the extras to level the scores.
Exeter threw everything at their hosts in the final stages, but Steenson’s late drop goal attempt from 45 metres out was well wide.