England captain Owen Farrell was described as “phenomenal” after he guided Saracens to victory over Exeter Chiefs to secure their place in the Premiership semi-finals.
Headlining a busy weekend of domestic rugby across the continent, Saracens recovered from a 15-10 half-time deficit to defeat the visitors 38-22 at the StoneX Stadium on Sunday.
Elliot Daly, Sean Maitland, Nick Tompkins and Ben Earl all crossed the whitewash for the hosts, but it was the mesmerising performance of Farrell that stole the show.
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Farrell kicked three conversions and four penalties as he continued his return from the injury that saw him miss the entirety of England’s 2022 Guinness Six Nations campaign.
And Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall was full of praise for his 30-year-old skipper after his side scored 28 second-half points to confirm their place in the end-of-season shootout.
“His passing and his kicking and his offloads – all of that was phenomenal, really,” McCall said.
“In terms of what he did during the game he was outstanding but emotionally he was incredible. He hasn’t played many games for us in the Premiership, so it’s great to have him back.”
That result for Saracens closed the gap to league leaders Leicester Tigers to just four points after Steve Borthwick’s frontrunners were beaten 26-20 by defending champions Harlequins.
In another contest littered with internationals on both sides, Marcus Smith got the better of England teammate George Ford with 11 points and an assist at the Twickenham Stoop.
Quins are now within touching distance of joining Saracens and Tigers in the Premiership semi-finals, sitting third with a ten-point cushion over Exeter Chiefs in fifth place.
Northampton Saints split the two sides in fourth, having secured a bonus-point 36-31 victory over Bath Rugby at the Rec on Saturday after coming from 19 points behind.
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Wasps also remain in the hunt for the top four after cruising to a bonus-point 41-12 win over Worcester Warriors as Gabriel Oghre scored a brace at the CBS Arena.
Elsewhere, Louis Rees-Zammit crossed for Gloucester on Friday night but it was Wales teammate Callum Sheedy who had the last laugh as Bristol Bears won 29-28 at Ashton Gate.
Rees-Zammit and Scotland international Chris Harris both crossed for the visitors but Sheedy kicked nine points before Toby Fricker’s try handed Bears a dramatic victory.
Friday night also saw London Irish run out comfortable 42-14 winners over Newcastle Falcons as Ollie Hassell-Collins continued to put his hand up for England selection with another try.
In the United Rugby Championship, Keith Earls scored a try and Joey Carbery kicked 14 points as Munster defeated Ulster in one of three games taking place on Friday night.
Glasgow Warriors also slipped to a 32-7 defeat to Stormers while Pierre Schoeman and Mark Bennett both scored for Edinburgh as they saw off Italian outfit Zebre 29-26 at home.
Meanwhile Ryan Elias continued his fine form from the Guinness Six Nations with a try as Scarlets defeated Welsh rivals Dragons 38-19 on Saturday, with Rhys Patchell adding four conversions.
There were also wins for Connacht, Ospreys, Bulls and Sharks on Saturday, with the latter claiming a 28-23 victory over United Rugby Championship leaders Leinster.
The leaders of the Top 14 were also beaten at the weekend as Montpellier slipped to a 23-22 loss to second-place Bordeaux on Sunday as hooker Maxime Lamothe scored a stunning try.
That result ensured victories for La Rochelle and Castres on Saturday were even more important, beating Perpignan and Clermont 32-16 and 12-0 respectively to close the gap at the top.
France winger Gabin Villiere was on the scoresheet for Toulon as they defeated Toulouse 19-15, while Teddy Thomas scored a brace as Racing 92 overcame Biarritz 40-7 and there were also wins for Lyon and Stade Francais.