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Aviva Premiership final: Stick with Sarries to pip Chiefs at Twickenham

Exeter vs Saracens Match Preview and Predictions

Exeter and Saracens meet in the Aviva Premiership final for the second time in three years for what should be a thriller between two teams peaking at just the right time.

Saturday's match brings together the top two teams from the regular season during which Exeter finished eight points clear of their rivals.

Rob Baxter's side booked their place in the showpiece with a comprehensive 36-5 victory over Newcastle, and Owen Farrell kicked 27 points as Saracens overwhelmed Wasps 57-33 in the other semi-final at Allianz Park.

Despite beating Saracens home and away this season, Chiefs go into the game as 13/10 underdogs in the Aviva Premiership final odds but perhaps we should not read too much into those results as both contests fell during the international window.

In their last meeting two months ago, Exeter ran out 24-12 winners at Sandy Park where Sarries were missing around 18 players but it was in the pack where they were worst hit, with six forwards expected to play absent for the game.

Chiefs fielded a strong side that day but the outcome was still open to debate 16 minutes from time until man-of-the-match Joe Simmonds, who has never played at Twickenham, kicked a penalty to secure a 17-12 lead before a penalty try in the final 10 minutes wrapped up the points.

Saracens defeated Exeter 28-20 in the 2016 final, but Chiefs exacted revenge in the semi-final a year later so these teams are clearly thoroughly acquainted with each other.

Despite Exeter finishing top of the table and beating the Londoners three times this season, including a 43-20 win in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, we fancy Saracens to win by between 1-7 points at 49/20.

Sarries have won on their last six visits to Twickenham and their experience of playing in big games like this will be invaluable. Last year's final was Exeter's first victory at HQ and although they are becoming accustomed to playing in high-pressure matches, only three sides have successfully defended the Premiership title. Saracens were the latest to achieve that two years ago.

Exeter have some exceptional players in their ranks, especially Don Armand and the Simmonds brothers, but Saracens hold the aces with star quality throughout their squad like Maro Itoje, Alex Goode, the Vunipola brothers and Farrell who dominated counterpart Danny Cipriani in the semi-final against Wasps.

It is undoubtedly going to be a close contest between two sides with excellent defences and should be a contrast between Exeter's possession-based game and Saracens' ability to keep their opponents pinned in their own half with their tactical kicking game.

McCall, who has fitness concerns over Billy Vunipola and Liam Williams, said the first 20 minutes against Wasps was "as good as we have ever played". Comments like that suggest a team playing in their fourth final in five years may have too much on Saturday - but only just.

Warren Barner
@warren_barner in Rugby Union