With the highpoint of the English club rugby season upon us, Last Word on Rugby can only sit back like every other fan of the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership and await #EXEvSAR.
This is the grand final, and the two protagonists are very familiar with one another. It will not be the first time they have met in the final, and the rivalry is giving fans a classic for the ages.
A new Leicester v Bath, Saracens v Northampton, and countless other eras where two top teams would cross swords on multiple occasions. This will be yet another fixture between the leaders of English Rugby, and looks set to provide more intrigue and tension on both sides.
#EXEvSAR will be trending this week, leading up to 3pm GMT kickoff.
Highpoint of English Rugby season is #EXEvSAR
If a final is where the two most competent sides meet, then the Gallagher Premiership is a fitting finale.
— Minidon's Dad! (@kernowjanner) May 26, 2019
Each side will have its own focus points, awareness of opposition strengths and weaknesses, and familiarity. Likewise, their fans will be mindful of past results (see above) yet, in the wrap-up, it might just be who copes with the anticipation and pressure, that is the highpoint of the English club rugby season.
For these elite clubs, it is familiar territory. There is no denying the encounters before, and each side will deal with that fact in totally different ways. The defending champions might enter knowing they can just hit repeat – although, with subtle changes in players, it might be a new strategy.
Saracens head coach Mark McCall has stated that his squad is targeting an improved performance; on what as already an excellent display against Gloucester. “We need to be better. It’s almost perfect because we’ve won comfortably (against Gloucester) and scored some good tries but still have a frustrated changing room.
“If we want to get the result that we want, then we need to be better. The players understand that.”
When everything clicks, @Saracens are a joy to behold 💥⚡
Which was your favourite? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/IObxjxpEND
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 30, 2019
Two talented sides will do battle at Twickenham
With the 2017 title under their belt, the Exeter Chiefs have the ability to win on the big stage. It is not unrealistic, considering that they have held off a strong Saracens side for most of this season. Although, it was ultimately a closely fought race.
With the highpoint of the season only days away #EXEvSAR when you look at the final standings, these sides were only separated by one win and several bonus points.
Chiefs on top of Tries Scored, Saries on top considering points against/defence.
So what will the difference be? pic.twitter.com/D6BBvo0HL0
— scott hornell (@scotthornell73) May 30, 2019
Rob Baxter told PremiershipRugby.com that he is confident that his side has improved from last season, and will continue to. “I think what you have to try and gain confidence from is that we’ve got a large group of players here, a lot of who were involved last year and had a good season.
Pick your poison 🔥
Which Chiefs player has the most ❌-factor? 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/0qT4ZIOUE7
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 30, 2019
“They’ve had another good season this year, come through some tough games and some tough experiences, so we should be a better team based on that alone.”
A good assessment, however, they are up against the current Heineken Champions Cup holders. The big occasion does not influence Sarries. So it will take a monumental effort from the Exeter men.
On Saturday afternoon, many varying factors* will play their part when #EXEvSAR takes fans full attention:
- Exeter Chiefs appear in their fourth successive Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final, only Leicester Tigers have appeared in more consecutive finals with nine in a row between 2005 and 2013. Exeter’s only victory in the Final was 23-20 over Wasps after extra time in 2017
- The only team to have topped the league table after 22 rounds and then won the Final in the last six years was Saracens in 2016
- Exeter Chief’s record in XVs rugby at Twickenham is won one lost seven. Exeter have lost two of their last five Premiership Rugby encounters, at home to Wasps in round 19 and away to Saracens in round 21
- Saracens are chasing a fifth Premiership Rugby title having won in three of the past four seasons
- Saracens have won on their last seven visits to Twickenham Stadium, four London double-headers and three Premiership Rugby Finals, since their 20-24 defeat there to Northampton after extra time in the 2014 Final
- The London side have won just two of their last seven Premiership Rugby meetings with Exeter; last year’s Final and the round 21 victory at Allianz Park
- The two clubs have met in three previous Finals – the Anglo-Welsh final at Franklin’s Gardens in 2015, plus two Gallagher Premiership Rugby Finals in 2016 and 2018, with Saracens winning them all.
More factors that will influence this year’s final can and will continue to be issued. Last Word on Rugby writers and contributors will all lend their voices leading up to the event.
2018/19 Gallagher Premiership final
Exeter Chiefs v Saracens – Saturday, June 1. Twickenham, 3pm (GMT)
*statistics courtesy of Premiership Rugby.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images