Owen Farrell got Saracens back into the winning habit with a masterly display from the fly-half, which begged the question: “Why don’t England give him the keys to No 10?”
Farrell, more often than not a 12 at Test level, ran the game with his boot and his range of passing and made a statement to England’s new head coach about where he is most effective.
The 31-year-old sealed the bonus point for Saracens on 72 minutes, making a try for wing Alex Lewington that showed the freedom he is able to play with at club level.
Farrell managed to find Lewington on the right hand side with a reverse miss-pass that even had the usually stony-faced fly-half grinning. It was a score which summed up the dominance enjoyed by the five-times champions as they recorded their biggest win over Exeter.
With Steve Borthwick set to announce his first squad for the Six Nations on 16 January, there were encouraging displays away from Farrell.
Hooker Jamie George, back from a heel injury, threw in at the lineout as if was playing in the darts down the road at Alexandra Palace and Maro Itoje, returning from concussion, was on the end of a few of them and a constant menace around the pitch. Ben Earl, out of favour during the Eddie Jones era, came off the bench to add punch in his 100th appearance for the club and Nick Isiekwe, in his second game of the season, had a good day at lineout. The only disappointment for Saracens’ potential England candidates was Elliot Daly’s early departure after a failed HIA.
Jack Nowell fought the good fight for Chiefs from the wing for 62 minutes dealing with Farrell’s high balls but he was a lone beacon as Exeter slipped to their first defeat in six games in all competitions. Their lineout went to pot, every 50-50 went Saracens’ way and their scrum struggled, leaving Nowell little to work with.
Chiefs were hamstrung from the start, arriving in north London minus half a dozen squad members who had been laid low by a seasonal virus and missing hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, who is shaking off a neck problem, and No 8 Sam Simmonds, who has tweaked his knee.
Saracens, fully loaded barring Theo McFarland whose stellar season has been finished by an ACL injury, were also reeling from last weekend’s 29-20 reverse at London Irish.
But playing with a stiff wind in the first half, they showed the energy they lacked in Brentford to turn at the break 19-3 up with three tries made in different ways.
The first came when they went away from the Premiership playbook of kicking for a lineout from a penalty and instead let Mako Vunipola take the tap. He passed to brother Billy and Scotland flanker Andy Christie went route one to crash over close to the posts.
The hosts lost Daly on 10 minutes and fly-half Joe Simmonds clawed three points back for Chiefs before Farrell’s exquisite chip through manufactured a score for wing Sean Maitland on 22 minutes.
Exeter butchered their two best positions when their lineout misfunctioned in the gale, Jack Yeandle’s crooked throw accounted for one, and Saracens made them pay. Prop Marco Riccioni was the beneficiary, scoring the second try of his career and first for his latest club, thanks to a smart lineout move engineered by Itoje.
The second row took the ball from George’s throw, dummied to shift it then handed it to Riccioni who was driven over by his pack. All three scores were simple enough, and all three were simply deadly.
But with the wind at their backs Exeter could not make the elements tell as Farrell popped over two penalties to hand them a lesson in using the conditions and make it 25-3 in the 50th minute.
The cast changed as both sides emptied their benches but the direction of traffic did not change as Saracens continued their dominance with Lewington’s score and a fifth for Nick Tompkins.