What you might have missed: Gallagher Premiership Rugby semi-finals
We now have a thunderous Gallagher Premiership Rugby final to look forward to this Saturday after the top two – Saracens and Exeter Chiefs – powered through their semi-finals at the weekend to book a thrilling climax against each other.
Northampton Saints put up swaggering resistance against the Chiefs and Gloucester Rugby delivered some moments of genius at Allianz Park – for anyone who missed the action here’s a look at how events transpired in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby final four.
Saracens ooze class
Gloucester, finishing third in the division in the regular season, have come on leaps and bounds under Johan Ackermann and deservedly took their place in the semi-finals after a tremendous season.
They found themselves up against it at Allianz Park though, one of the toughest grounds in rugby to visit, with the defending champions putting in a hugely-impressive performance just a few weeks after claiming the European Champions Cup crown.
📹 Reaction | Centre @alexlozowski10 summarises a dominant semi-final as Sarries book their spot at Twickenham! 👏
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) May 25, 2019
The Cherry & Whites started on the front foot and after going coast to coast got the opening score as No.8 Ben Morgan popped up on the right wing and trundled in to the line.
The response was almost immediate as the hosts fought their way down the other end, Owen Farrell poked through and wing Sean Maitland collected out wide for an easy score.
A penalty from the England man put Saracens ahead and it stayed 8-7 until the closing stages of the half, until the irrepressible Maro Itoje burst into the 22 and dummied left before then releasing Ben Spencer to go in under the posts.
Farrell added another penalty and when Liam Williams was put into the corner following a regathered up and under, it built a 23-7 lead at the break.
The champions only ratcheted up the pressure after the interval, a flowing move through hands to the left seeing Nick Tompkins, on for the injured Brad Barritt, get his first.
A superb counter-attack on 50 minutes and Tompkins had his second, while his third came from much shorter distance as Saracens went past 40.
The Cherry & Whites response came from their replacements as Ruan Dreyer threw a delightful dummy to get over, Lewis Ludlow repeating the trick from further out on 68 minutes to round off the scoring.
ICYMI: Here’s everything you need to know about tickets, hospitality and travel to the @premrugby Final between @ExeterChiefs and @saracens at Twickenham next Saturday ⬇️https://t.co/xu9WAfGmXu pic.twitter.com/GX0CFlXDjR
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) May 26, 2019
Sandy Park sparkle for Chiefs
With Saracens delivering a classy all-round performance in London it was over to Sandy Park to see who their opponent would be, and Exeter didn’t disappoint as they showed why they finished top of the pile.
Tom O’Flaherty and Jack Nowell were both tireless in the backs while the Chiefs forwards efforts, bullish as ever, were spearheaded by a supreme effort from back-row man Dave Ewers.
Early on, it was all Exeter, with a sustained period of pressure through some muscular carrying from the big men, Harry Williams eventually crashing over from point-blank range.
The Chiefs saw the lions’ share of the ball, with Joe Simmonds scoring the hosts’ second after 20 minutes, powering them to a commanding 14-0 lead.
What a mouth-watering #GallagherPrem Final we have on our hands 😍🤩
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 26, 2019
Saints managed to find a way back into the game against the run of play, first a penalty try and then a wonderful score from Ahsee Tuala, featuring impressive juggling from Rory Hutchinson, getting them on their way.
Chiefs returned to what they do best in the second half. A rolling maul resulted in more burly, burrowing carries and eventually Dave Dennis grabbed Chiefs’ third.
Then came the moment of the match, O’Flaherty coming off his wing and slicing through the defence, arcing around Dan Biggar in scintillating fashion – a stunner to mostly end the Saints resistance.
Exeter weren’t quite done there and Sam Simmonds and Sam Hill put the icing on the cake, both from close range.