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Exeter are far from boring


Saying Exeter are boring is rubbish but they need to be more pragmatic to beat Saracens - Andy Goode

This Exeter team is far from boring. In fact, they may have to adapt and be a bit more boring in some people’s eyes if they want to beat Saracens.

I’ve got no idea what would make anyone think they’re boring. Are they joking? They hold onto the ball for over 30 phases at times but that shows enormous skill levels and means their tight five forwards are comfortable on the ball as well.

People used to say Saracens’ kick and chase game was boring as well and they’ve added elements to it as time has gone on and now it’s the Chiefs who are being accused of being boring rather than them, so I think it’s ridiculous.

I think what the Chiefs’ doubters should be pointing to, if there is anything to criticise them for, is the fact that they’ve only won one final and they should have lost that one if Nathan Hughes hadn’t given a silly penalty away with 30 seconds to go when the game was won.

I don’t agree that their possession game is boring to watch at all but I actually think they need to be more boring or probably more pragmatic if they are to beat Saracens and take the trophy back to Devon.

They’ve spent much of this season turning down kicks at goal and going for the corner but they’ll surely have to take more of those opportunities in the final and I think they’re going to have to kick more in open play as well.

They’re going to have to adapt the way they play and take Saracens on at their own game to a certain extent, as well as displaying all the qualities that have led them to finish top of the Premiership table after 22 rounds.

The Exeter back three have got to nullify the threat of the high bombs that are going to be raining down on them and then they have to match Sarries’ physicality. That has to be the starting point.

You rarely see the Saracens back three under pressure. Part of that is because of the ability of Alex Goode, Liam Williams and Sean Maitland but I really do think Nic White and Joe Simmonds, in particular, need to kick more and kick accurately to compete as well as going for territory a bit more than they usually do.

Nick Tompkins of Saracens breaks clear to score his second try. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

I think the only way to beat Saracens is to manage the space in the middle of the field better. If Exeter can do that and combat Saracens’ power game, then they are in with a chance.

Simmonds will have to prove that he can manage a game up against the master of doing just that in Owen Farrell. He was taken off after 50 minutes in last year’s final and is sure to have learned lessons and be better with another year under his belt so it’ll be intriguing to see how he goes.

The decision not to pick Santiago Cordero, if he’s fit as he’s believed to be, is an interesting one. He’s been outstanding this season and I’d pick him every day of the week if we’re judging on ability but it says a lot about the culture at the Chiefs that he’s not included.

Tom O’Flaherty scored a worldie of a try in the semi-final and has earned the right to keep his place this weekend. The fact that Cordero’s leaving this summer might also have something to do with it and there might be an element of him being a bit more vulnerable to Saracens’ kicking game as well.

Exeter have been phenomenal in recent years and I’d love to see them win, as I think a lot of neutrals would, but you have to say that there are question marks over their ability to take their regular season form into these big knockout games.

Alex Lozowski

Exeter Chiefs applaud Alex Lozowski and Saracens players after December’s match. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Some people will say that it’s boring that these two are so far ahead of the rest as well but I don’t buy that. We had a period of dominance at Leicester and then Wasps did when the play-offs came in and they excelled in the big games.

Sport is cyclical and the likes of Gloucester, Northampton and Harlequins have shown this season that they are at the start of their cycles. Exeter and Saracens are at the peak of their powers and we should be in for an epic final.

The vast big game experience of these Saracens players is the major difference, though, and winning titles has become not just a habit but an expectation. You have to think that they’re going to win a fourth title in five years.

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Saying Exeter are boring is rubbish but they need to be more pragmatic to beat Saracens - Andy Goode
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