Jamie George believes Saracens’ latest Premiership title triumph was the deepest they have had to dig for success.
A fifth Premiership crown – only Leicester have won more – looked out of reach when Exeter led by 11 points at Twickenham with 20 minutes left.
But, as against Heineken Champions Cup final opponents Leinster three weeks ago, Saracens delivered a stunning response, with England hooker George scoring two of their five tries in a spectacular 37-34 success.
“It’s definitely the hardest we’ve had to dig for a final, but I think we kind of want it that way,” George said.
“It’s so much better winning that way. It was incredibly tough, and we are just happy to have got through it on the right side of the game.
“It’s hard to put into words but you do back yourself and there is a feeling between players – you know people are on it.
“As soon as Liam (Williams) went over for his try, we thought: ‘We can do this’. There was genuine belief that we could do it.
“I think we knew Exeter would be brilliant. The Champions Cup final was probably a bit more brutal in terms of the physicality of the game, but I think the way that Exeter played their game was different level.
“I think the difficulty and the shock that I had was how poor we were considering how well we prepared. Usually, there is a correlation there.
“We prepared really well, we spoke really well pre-game, the feeling was great and we just really didn’t rock up for 60 minutes. I guess it’s a sign of a good side that you can turn it on for 20 minutes to win a game, but we were pretty poor for 60 minutes.”
Saracens’ victory secured an eighth major trophy of rugby director Mark McCall’s reign, and his stock could hardly be higher when debate turns to England boss Eddie Jones’ eventual successor.
McCall said: “It was incredibly tough. We were second best at everything in the 20 minutes before half-time, and Exeter were phenomenal. We couldn’t control them.
“We weren’t great at the start of the second half, either. We found a way, but I’m not sure how we did. It feels quite special, this one.”
Exeter and England centre Henry Slade, meanwhile, mirrored the sense of desolation for a club that has lost three of the last four Premiership finals – all against Saracens.
“That is probably the worst I’ve ever felt after a game,” Slade said. “We had them – we were on top of them for the whole game.
“But we can keep that feeling and use it to drive us forward for next season. It’s such a terrible feeling.
“People said we never had a chance before we took the field, and things like that motivate you more. Some of the boys we’ve got in this team are world-class, and they showed that.
“Saracens obviously did well to win the double, but to dominate the European champions for so much of the game gives us massive encouragement that we are definitely good enough to win this (Premiership title).
“We’ve got to use this hurt and pain going forward to next year.”
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