Josh Hodge scored a hat-trick of tries as Exeter Chiefs thumped Saracens 65-10 in their Premiership opener at Sandy Park on Saturday.
In an outstanding performance from the home side, Rob Baxter’s men cut loose against a shell-shocked Saracens as they ran in 11 tries in Devon.
The impressive Hodge grabbed three of those while Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Greg Fisilau, Ethan Roots, Tom Hendrickson, Henry Slade, Rusi Tuima, Ross Vintcent and Niall Armstrong also went over, with Slade and Harvey Skinner adding extra points.
In a dominant display from start to finish, Saracens simply had no answer to the power, pace and precision of the Devonians – who bagged a bonus point by the 16th minute and led 41-0 at half-time.
Handed what seemed a tough assignment in the season curtain-raiser, the new and youthful Chiefs were quickly into their attacking stride and scored in the first minute, winger Feyi-Waboso finishing off a slick home attack when he raced onto an audacious pass from Skinner down the right flank.
Moments later, and with Sarries skipper Alex Lozowski in the sin-bin, the Chiefs struck again, number eight Fisilau attaching himself to the back of a close-range line-out to double the lead.
Saracens were seemingly all at sea, struggling to contain the relentless waves of Exeter attacks. Debutant Roots bagged a third try, picking up from a few metres out, before Hendrickson brought up the bonus point when he was given the pass from Slade, who had latched onto a clever chip over the top from Tom Cairns.
England international Slade then got in on the try-scoring act himself, picking off a pass in midfield to race clear from halfway and extend his side’s lead to 29-0.
There was no let-up from Baxter’s side as they headed towards the break, Hodge helping himself to a quickfire double – the second after breaking four tackles on the end of a scintillating cross-field move.
The break could not have come at a better time for Saracens, and they used the respite as the opportunity to not only regroup but fathom out a new game plan for the second half.
Whatever was said, it initially had the desired effect as replacement Andy Christie and Alex Lewington combined nicely to send Olly Hartley cantering down the left wing for the score.
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It was the spark Saracens had craved, but the Chiefs were soon back on the offensive themselves. Fisilau was held up on the line, but Hodge soon claimed his hat-trick score with a jet-propelled burst from deep inside his own half.
Not content with that, the Chiefs continued to pile forward in numbers, bullying Saracens into submission with a brutal assault from all angles. The home pack did much of the donkey work, easing them to within sight of the line, the fruits of which were finished off by Tuima.
To their credit, Saracens refused to throw in the towel, picking themselves off the floor to land a late blow of their own through Scotland international Sean Maitland. It was, however, a little too late in the grand scheme of things.
Indeed, it was the home side who would put the shine on a polished performance, bagging two more tries in the dying embers through replacements Vintcent and Armstrong.
Big Bath signing Finn Russell made his debut as a first-half replacement but it was skipper Ben Spencer who was the star of the show with a hat-trick of tries in the 34-26 win over Newcastle at The Rec.
The home side touched down six times in all, the other tries going to Alfie Barbeary, Cameron Redpath and Will Muir, while Spencer also landed two conversions.
Newcastle, with nothing like Bath’s spending power, caused the home side no end of trouble at the breakdown and scored three tries through Matias Orlando, Ben Stevenson and Jamie Blamire.
A last-minute try from replacement Jamal Ford-Robinson saw Gloucester edge a thrilling 29-28 home Premiership comeback victory over Harlequins.
Quins looked set to win until replacement Jarrod Evans was sin-binned in added time, which allowed the home side to regroup and steal victory.
Arthur Clark, Lewis Ludlow and George McGuigan were also on Gloucester’s try-scoring sheet with George Barton kicking a penalty and three conversions.
Will Evans, Alex Dombrandt and Luke Northmore scored tries for Harlequins. Will Edwards added two conversions with Jarrod Evans adding three penalties.