Exeter took revenge on arch-rivals Saracens in their first meeting since the salary-cap scandal broke but their 14-7 Gallagher Premiership victory was marred by a late red card for Harry Williams as tempers flared at Sandy Park.
In an intense defensive battle, the match reached boiling point in the 77th minute when a ferocious brawl broke out on the sideline which saw prop Harry Williams red-carded for joining the scuffle from the bench.
Whilst trying to settle the situation, Saracens’ Number 8 Billy Vunipola had to be dragged away by teammates from referee Wayne Barnes, who issued multiple ‘last chance’ warnings to the England international for backchat.
Vunipola was lucky to not be given his marching orders by the experienced Barnes, with many online viewing his behaviour as deserving of a yellow card.
I am a fan of Wayne Barnes, but he completely bottled that. Billy Vunipola openly ignoring him, and all he does is hide behind multiple “last” warnings. Slippery slope. #EXEvSAR
— Alex (@alexhBS3) December 29, 2019
Billy Vunipola just said "I'm a grown ass man" to Barnsey. ? being a right twat @bloodandmud
— Phil Roberts (@philrob89) December 29, 2019
Billy V explaining to Wayne Barnes that he is "a grown ass man", which is obviously very grown up.#EXEvSAR
— JB (@Jbeardmore) December 29, 2019
Barnes should have sent Vunipola off for dissent there. #EXEvSAR
— Brendan Hurley (@brendanhurley) December 29, 2019
Also billy vunipola acting like a moody kid yet not sent off
— Chicken Joe (@_Joey_Harvey_) December 29, 2019
Barnes should have just sent Billy Vunipola off. He did not walk away on his own volition.
This season has seen a real lack of respect for refs begin to creep in…
— RugbyInsideLine (@RugbyInsideLine) December 29, 2019
Billy Vunipola throwing his toys out the pram
— Former Half-Wits Champ (@nigelchivers) December 29, 2019
Billy Vunipola pure laughing at Wayne Barnes there and he did shag all about it, for all the chat about how strong he’s been there #EXEvSAR
— Three Red Kings (@threeredkings) December 29, 2019
Vunipola’s display of defiance marred what was an impressive performance for the Saracens’ forward who carried hard and made a truckload of tackles.
For Exeter, the win avenged a Premiership final defeat last year and furthered their cause this season to claim a title after losing three finals in four years to Saracens. Two of those three defeats were deemed to be made when Saracens were not compliant with the salary cap.
Despite being docked 35 competition points, Saracens have still been one of the best sides in the Premiership with five wins from their opening six matches. Before Sunday’s match, they held a better record than table-toppers Exeter but now both sides are 5-2 despite being at opposite ends of the ladder.
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