After watching Saracens beat Leicester last weekend, I struggled to figure out how anyone could beat them. Saracens have won their last nine matches on the bounce, and the last time they lost was in March, when they had the spine of their team missing during the Six Nations.
Not only that, but this group of players are contesting their fifth Premiership final in seven years, and the only area where they are weak is in the scrum.
Statistically, Saracens have the second worst scrum in the Premiership, so in order to beat them, you have to understand how to play against them.
Some teams will try and throw it around, others have tried to get into a kicking battle, but I think the Exeter Chiefs are the one team that worry Saracens fans.
This is because Chiefs have the ability to beat Saracens. They have a decent kicking game, a very strong running game, statistically the best line out in the Premiership, and they also keep the ball in play longer than any other team. So the Saracens defence will be tested.
The Chiefs are also the fittest team in the league, having score more points in the second half than any other team in the Premiership, negating the impact of the Saracens bench.
Strangely, Exeter and Saracens each average 27 points per game, more than any other team, and both have conceded an average of 16 points per game. Indicating a very tight final.
Saying that, Thomas Waldron is a massive loss. To beat Saracens, you have beat them on the gain line, you have to get some monster ball carriers holding that blitz defence, to create the space for Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Olly Woodburn.
Saracens have also won the last four finals they have contested, so everything is pointing toward another win for Mark McCall’s team.
Whatever the result, we should not overlook Exeter’s achievement. Getting to the final six years after being promoted to the Premiership, at a time when clubs such as Bath are underpinned by massive resources, is a credit to the culture they have created.
Rob Baxter has adopted a style of play that suits his players, and has been very intelligent about the type of individual he has brought into the club.
Rob hasn’t gone out and bought a whole new team, he has just added two quality players each year. This season he signed Geoff Parling and Julian Salvi, players who brought a winning mentality from Leicester.
The Exeter coach has also remained loyal to a number of players who were part of the squad that was promoted from the Championship. Two of Exeter’s best players this season have been Gareth Steenson and Phil Dollman.
So not only has Rob Baxter signed well, but maintained the culture that got them into the Premiership six years ago. As a result, there is a belief and trust within the team that they can win the title.
It’s a brilliant club. When you play in Sandy Park the atmosphere is phenomenal, and I’m sure the whole of Devon will be making their way to Twickenham on Saturday.
Andy Goode, Pundit Arena
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