Mako Vunipola scored two tries as Saracens recorded their first Aviva Premiership win at their new Allianz Park home at the first attempt with a 31-11 victory over Exeter Chiefs.
The England prop, released back to the club by head coach Stuart Lancaster this week, scored along with Charlie Hodgson and Matt Stevens on the first Aviva Premiership match to be played on Saracens’ new artificial surface.
The win means the home side got back to winning ways after their loss to London Irish last week to cement their position in the play-offs, while the Chiefs have now lost two on the bounce.
Sarries started with intent on their new pitch and within the first few minutes the home side should have had a try in the right corner. James Short just needed ball to hand to cross the whitewash, but Joel Tomkins failed to find the winger with his pass.
Hodgson and Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson both missed penalty attempts early on and the game was scoreless after the opening fifteen minutes.
Hodgson missed two penalties before Chiefs full-back Luke Arscott was sin-binned for killing the ball to prevent Sarries recycling quickly after a scintillating break from Ben Ransom.
The visitors were the first to eventually put points on the board after Saracens failed to roll away at a ruck – Steenson making it 0-3 after 24 minutes.
Sarries finally got their try at the tail end of the half. The forwards battered into the Exeter defence for a few phases and Hodgson ghosted through a gap to score on his 43rd appearance for the club, converting his own try to make it 7-3 at half-time.
A fast start to the second half from Saracens earned them a penalty when Exeter were caught offside and Hodgson extended the home side’s lead to 10-3.
Saracens managed to make a mess of an Exeter line-out close to the visitors’ line and had the Chiefs defence at sixes and sevens. The attack ended with prop Stevens barging over from close range. Another successful conversion from Hodgson put daylight between the sides at 17-3.
Right from the kick-off though Steenson clawed some points back for Exeter, taking the score to 17-6 with a penalty.
The points started to come thick and fast after that and Vunipola bagged Saracens’ next try. The 22-year-old England prop couldn’t be stopped on the crash ball from a few yards out.
The Exeter defence was hugely committed in the face of strong Saracens pressure but they eventually succumbed to another try. Again it was Vunipola, this time lurking on the right wing, who rode one tackle before crossing the line.
Saracens led 31-6 with eight minutes to play but Exeter got a reward for their superb defence with a consolation score five minutes before full time, captain Richard Baxter with it to make the final score 31-11.