Saracens head to Leinster for Mission Improbable in high spirits after their kids trounced Premiership leaders Exeter in north London.
Six days before they take on the Pro14 winners in Dublin for a place in the European Cup semi-finals, England’s fallen champions ran in five tries to beat a similarly raw Chiefs side.
“That was such an energy giver for the boys going into this week ahead,” raved Alex Sanderson, Saracens’ forwards and defence coach.
“You can’t coach that kind of intent and togetherness, work rate and relentless physicality they showed.
“Leinster are a very very good team and we are by far and away the huge underdogs. But we are not going to go there without fight.”
Sarries took the field fresh from seeing Leinster beat Ulster to win a third straight Pro 14 title and extend their perfect season to 23 wins.
With pretty much the team that will play in the Championship next season they knew the potential existed for a difficult day against the runaway league leaders, who had not lost since February and, even in defeat, are guaranteed finishing top dogs for a third straight year.
But with Manu Vunipola, the younger cousin of England stars Billy and Mako, pulling the strings expertly at fly-half they won with plenty to spare.
“Manu is a very hard working, very diligent player,” said Sanderson. “He’s under the wing of Owen Farrell and Owen likes the way he works and the fact he puts a lot of time in away from the training field.”
Chiefs expected a reaction to their win at Sandy Park in December and to strong criticism out of their camp over the salary cap breaches which led to Sarries’ enforced relegation.
But forewarned was not forearmed as Mark McCall’s youngsters took the game to them from the off, with Tom Whiteley and Vunipola putting Rotimi Segun over in just the fifth minute.
Exeter briefly found a response with Phil Dollman, their oldest player, unpicking the home defence with deft handling for Facundo Cordero to level.
But that was as good as it got for the visitors, as Dom Morris put Saracens 15-5 ahead on the stroke of half-time, following fine work by Juan Pablo Socino.
Sarries were just warming to their task and an inch-perfect kick from Vunipola put Eliiott Obatoyinbo over on the left before Jaco Venter marked his full debut with the bonus point try on the hour.
By the time Dave Dennis bagged a consolation try, 6’10 Cameroon Boon had swooped to add Sarries’ fifth and thoughts had turned to Leinster.
It will be one heck of a lot tougher in Dublin, but with Mako Vunipola set to be passed fit, Sarries at least travel with a spring in their step.
SARACENS – Tries: Segun, Morris, Obatoyinbo, Venter, Boon. Cons: Vunipola 3. Pens: Vunipola 3.
EXETER – Tries: Cordero, Witty, Dennis. Con: Skinner.
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