|Exeter: (10) 20|
|Tries: Penalty, Vermeulen Con: Slade Pens: Slade 2|
|Saracens: (10) 22|
|Tries: McFarland Cons: Farrell Pens: Daly 2, Farrell 2, Goode|
Alex Goode’s nerveless penalty in added time saw Saracens edge Exeter to maintain their winning start to the Premiership season.
The scores were level at half-time as Theo McFarland crossed for the visitors and Exeter earned a penalty try.
Elliot Daly and Owen Farrell kicked Saracens’ into a 19-10 lead before Jacques Vermeulen’s 70th-minute try.
Henry Slade’s 76th-minute penalty looked to have won it for Chiefs before Goode coolly slotted the winner.
Victory made it six league wins out of six so far for Mark McCall’s men, as Exeter’s four-match winning streak at home came to a dramatic end.
Farrell left the field on the hour mark after taking an accidental knee to the head and could now be a doubt for England’s Autumn Nations Series opener against Argentina on 6 November.
The Chiefs forced Saracens into a huge amount of early defensive work and the visitors were reduced to 14 men after skipper Farrell gave away two needless penalties in the opening five minutes.
Referee Tom Foley reversed a penalty after the England fly-half got involved in some pushing and shoving after a ruck and Farrell was sin-binned shortly afterwards for a deliberate trip on winger Jack Nowell as Exeter attacked the Saracens line.
Exeter took the lead in the 22nd minute when Slade sent a long-range penalty between the posts but Saracens, who had seen very little of the ball, hit back instantly when McFarland charged through a gap and Farrell added the conversion to make it 7-3.
Chiefs regained the lead two minutes before the break through a penalty try as Mako Vunipola, returning from suspension, illegally pulled down a maul as Exeter rumbled towards the line, with the England prop yellow-carded.
But again the lead did not last long as a long-range Daly penalty on the stroke of half-time made it 10-10 at the break.
Farrell put Saracens back in front from the tee after Slade had made a try-saving tackle to prevent Maro Itoje touching down, but Chiefs outside-half Harvey Skinner was then sin-binned for killing the ensuing ball.
Another Farrell penalty made it 16-10 after 56 minutes and the visitors were firmly in the ascendancy when Daly stretched the lead to nine with 14 minutes left with a penalty from inside his own half.
Exeter hit back after 70 minutes as Vermeulen powered over for his 13th Premiership try following a line break by Skinner, Slade converting and then slotting a penalty four minutes from time to give the Chiefs a one-point lead.
But a scrum penalty with the clock in the red opened the door for the visitors.
Goode – on the day he equalled Kris Chesney’s club record of 338 appearances – made the pressure penalty look simple to keep his side top of the Premiership.
As well as waiting on Farrell’s condition, England head coach Eddie Jones may also have a selection headache at hooker for the four-game autumn series after Exeter’s Luke Cowan-Dickie suffered a knee injury, with Saracens’ Jamie George already out with a foot injury.
It follows injuries to England squad members Jonny May and Henry Arundell during Gloucester’s victory over London Irish on Friday.
Exeter head coach Ali Hepher told BBC Radio Devon:
“It was always going to be a tough game and the guys poured everything into it. Attitude-wise we’re in the right place but we’ve got to tidy up some little bits of our game.
“We had that period in the middle of the second half where it was just error onto error and gave them that lead which is tough to claw back. That said, the fightback to get in front towards the end was phenomenal.
“We can see the fight is in the players, we’ve just got to smooth off those areas and improve the little basics which will be crucial in these games. More frustrating is how easily we let them score.
“We’ve got to look at how we make the most of opportunities. We’d like to be a bit more clinical. A lot of guys out there were fighting right the way through and they gave us every opportunity to win the game but we just came up short in the end.”
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:
“It was two really good sides scrapping it out, fighting it out. Whether we deserved to win I am not sure, but we showed some great fighting qualities.
“We were down to 14 men twice and I liked how we went about that and how physical we were. I don’t think we were as good as we should have been in the second half.”
On Alex Goode’s match-winning kick:
“He showed why he has been a top player at this club for 17 years. It was a big moment, his first kick of the season I think, and for Alex to step up shows a lot about him.”
Exeter: Hogg, Nowell, Slade, Whitten, Woodburn, Skinner, Maunder, Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, van Heerden, Gray, Ewers, Tshiunza, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Yeandle, Iosefa-Scott, Schickerling, Dunne, S Simmonds, Maunder, J Simmonds, O’Loughlin.
Yellow card: Skinner (51)
Saracens: Daly, Malins, Lozowski, Tompkins, Lewington, Farrell, van Zyl, M Vunipola, Pifeleti, Judge, Itoje, Tizard, McFarland, Earl, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Dan, Flynn, Clarey, Hunter-Hill, Christie, Wray, de Haas, Goode.
Yellow cards: Farrell (5), M Vunipola (37).
Referee: Tom Foley