Exeter Chiefs regained their place at the top of the Premiership by beating Saracens 14-7 in a thrilling game at Sandy Park.

Rob Baxter's side replaced Northampton Saints at the summit on Sunday, though they had to survive a late scare after Dave Ewers gave away a penalty try and was sent to the sin bin with a minute remaining for going in at the side.

Against the side that beat them in the last two Premiership finals, Exeter moved ahead in the sixth minute. Max Malins spilled a loose pass from Owen Farrell, and Nic White, who opened the scoring when the Chiefs lost 37-34 to Sarries at Twickenham in June, hacked on to ground the ball in the corner.

Joe Simmonds added the extras, but the hosts came under pressure after Harry Williams was sent to the sin bin for pulling down a driving maul.

Farrell missed a second penalty as Williams returned and Simmonds did tremendously to hold up Jamie George and deny Saracens a try on the stroke of half-time.

Exeter got the reward their strong start to the second period deserved when Jacques Vermeulen touched down his first Premiership try, but their focus soon returned to defence.

Williams was shown a red card from the bench in the 77th minute after getting involved in a melee sparked by White coming together with Duncan Taylor, and Saracens upped the pressure.

Saracens were able to salvage a losing bonus point through a penalty try, meaning they are now 18 behind Leicester Tigers, but were unable to restore parity in the closing stages.

Liam Williams' much-anticipated return from Saracens to the Scarlets has been confirmed by the Pro14 side.

Wales full-back Williams, who is still recovering from an injury sustained during the Rugby World Cup, left the Scarlets to join Saracens in 2017.

The 28-year-old has subsequently helped Sarries to two successive Premiership titles, along with a European Champions Cup triumph last season.

However, Williams – who on Saturday appeared to confirm the move on his official Twitter account – will return to the Pro14 with his former club after his contract at Saracens expires at the end of the season.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time at Saracens over the past three seasons," Williams said.

"The environment has undoubtedly developed me as a player and a person. I am grateful for the support I've had from the players, management and supporters during this time."

Before Williams leaves Saracens, he will be tasked with attempting to help the champions retain their Premiership status.

Saracens are 17 points adrift at the foot of the table, having been fined £5.36million and deducted 35 points for breaching salary cap rules.

Saracens made it five Premiership victories on the bounce as they shrugged off conceding an early try to defeat Bristol Bears 47-13.

The defending champions – who still sit bottom thanks to their 35-point deduction for breaching salary cap rules – fell behind to Luke Morahan's ninth-minute try on Saturday.

But Saracens responded quickly through Mako Vunipola and swiftly wrested control thanks to Max Malins' try.

Malins helped himself to another after the restart, with Nick Tompkins also at the double as the home side went over five times in the second half.

However, Sarries are still 17 points behind Leicester Tigers, whose second-half capitulation at Welford Road enabled Exeter Chiefs to go top.

Exeter were 22-14 down at half-time, yet rallied after the interval to score 17 unanswered points and capitalise on Northampton Saints' 22-10 defeat at Sale Sharks.

Chris Ashton, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Akker van der Merwe went over for Sale as the Sharks moved into the top four.

Meanwhile, Wasps suffered a third successive Premiership loss as they went down 28-22 at home to Harlequins, who held on for a bonus-point win despite having Joe Marler sin-binned late on.

Wasps took the lead at the Ricoh Arena, though Harlequins dominated for 40 minutes up to the hour mark, running in four tries without reply.

Thomas Young's effort eventually pulled the hosts back into contention, but the TMO denied them a late try and they were left with a losing bonus point as consolation.

Liam Williams has seemingly confirmed reports he has agreed to leave Saracens and rejoin Scarlets at the end of the season.

Wales full-back Williams – who is recovering from an ankle injury suffered during the Rugby World Cup – joined Saracens in 2017.

The 28-year-old's contract is due to expire at the end of the 2019-20 campaign and reports on Friday claimed he was set to move back to Scarlets.

Though the impending switch has not been officially confirmed, Williams replied to a tweet questioning why he had opted to rejoin his former side and leave the reigning Premiership and European champions.

He wrote: "Because home is home."

Williams would be the first high-profile departure from Saracens since they were fined £5.36million and deducted 35 points for breaching salary cap rules.

Premiership Rugby could overhaul its salary cap rules after launching a "comprehensive review" in the wake of English champions Saracens committing a costly breach.

Saracens, who are also holders of the European Champions Cup, were handed a 35-point deduction and a £5.36million fine by league chiefs at the start of November.

It was deemed they had failed to disclose payments and exceeded the limit for salaries to players in each of the previous three seasons.

Premiership Rugby said on Thursday it was talking to Saracens about "additional measures" to allow the club to comply with its rules this season.

The investigation that resulted in the club's heavy punishment was launched after it was revealed high-profile Saracens players had entered into investment or property partnerships with owner Nigel Wray, who denied willingly breaching regulations.

Determined to avoid any further similar instance, Premiership Rugby said former Government minister Lord Myners would head up a review "to ensure a continued level playing field for all clubs in the future".

The credibility of Saracens' recent titles has been called into question by rival clubs after their breach came to light, but they have not been stripped of any honours.

Announcing its review, Premiership Rugby said in a statement it wanted its salary cap to be "a world-leading system with extensive investigatory powers and appropriately robust sanctions", saying all Premiership clubs and stakeholders in the game will be able to have a say.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said: "The success of Premiership Rugby is based on a group of fiercely competitive clubs who agree to play by the same set of rules on and off the pitch.

"The salary cap has been fundamental to promoting competition since its introduction and, while we continue to apply the existing regulations robustly, this review is designed to ensure that we have a world-leading framework in place for the future."

The league authority intends to have recommendations in place by midway through 2020 and for the new rules to be established in time for the start of the 2020-21 Premiership season.

European Champions Cup organisers have launched an investigation into a mass melee during Saracens' win over Munster on Saturday.

Tempers flared during the second half of a 15-6 Pool 4 victory for the defending champions at Allianz Park.

Sarries assistant coach Alex Sanderson alleged in an interview with BT Sport that a comment about England hooker Jamie George's weight made by the Irish province's chief medic sparked the fracas.

Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, later added: "Clearly, this shouldn't happen, we all know that. I don't think what was said to Jamie was good at all. It started a 30-man brawl.

"Owen Farrell got penalised for running into the melee but, from what I saw, 29 other people ran into it. It was a strange penalty to give and it was instigated by a member of their staff who said something horrible to one of our players.

"Something pretty bad was said at Jamie. He wouldn't have reacted the way he reacted otherwise. We'll take our time to decide whether we do anything."

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) on Sunday confirmed it will look into the ugly scenes.

"EPCR has decided to investigate incidents which occurred during the second half of the Champions Cup, Round 4 match between Saracens and Munster Rugby at Allianz Park yesterday," a statement from the governing body read.

"Information will now be sought from the match officials and from both clubs, and EPCR will be making no further comment until the investigation has been completed."

Munster remain second behind Racing 92 with two matches to play despite the defeat, a point better off than Sarries.

Saracens breathed new life into their European Champions Cup title defence as the Vunipola brothers starred in a 15-6 win over Munster at Allianz Park.

The reigning champions, who have lifted the trophy in three of the past four seasons, had won just one of their opening three games and came into the game trailing Pool 4 leaders Racing 92 by 11 points.

They were 6-3 behind against Munster early in the second half when a melee ensued after Jamie George appeared to be enraged by a conversation with a member of Munster's staff.

The brawl spilled over onto the advertising hoardings and, once it had subsided, Munster got a penalty which JJ Hanrahan missed.

Saracens soon came alive as Billy Vunipola, with three men converging on him, flipped a brilliant pass out to Sean Maitland to score before Mako Vunipola dotted down eight minutes from time to leave Sarries just one point behind second-placed Munster.

Leinster, the side Sarries beat in last season's final, made it four wins from four in Pool 1 with a dominant 50-21 victory over Northampton as Garry Ringrose scored a hat-trick.

The Ireland centre went over twice in the opening six minutes before Tadhg Furlong and Dave Kearney earned Leinster a bonus point prior to half-time.

Ringrose completed his treble after James Lowe had scored, with Caelan Doris crossing for Leinster's seventh and final try.

Premiership leaders Northampton - whose try-scorers were Dan Biggar, Ollie Sleightholme and Ahsee Tuala - now trail Leinster by 10 points with two games remaining.

Robin Copeland's 81st-minute try earned Connacht a 27-24 success over Gloucester, while Marco Lazzaroni's late score proved the difference in Benetton Treviso's 25-22 triumph against Lyon.

Toulouse beat Montpellier 26-18 while La Rochelle edged past Glasgow Warriors 12-7.

 

Leinster made it 10 wins from 10 to start the season as they routed Northampton Saints 43-16 in the European Champions Cup to move five points clear at the top of Pool 1.

The Irish province, beaten in last season's final by Saracens, ran in seven tries to beat Premiership leaders Saints, who came into this game having won both of their first two games in this competition.

Three Dan Biggar penalties, added to a try from Ahsee Tuala, meant Northampton led 16-14 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

However, Andrew Porter dotted down for Leinster's third try, following earlier scores from James Lowe and Rhys Ruddock, to ensure the visitors were leading 19-16 at the interval.

Northampton then failed to score a second-half point, while Cian Healy, Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath and Ed Byrne all crossed in Leinster's handsome victory.

Ulster moved top of Pool 3 as John Cooney's 79th-minute penalty earned them a 25-24 success over Harlequins.

Both sides scored three tries apiece, Elia Elia going over twice for Quins, but Cooney kept his cool from the 10-metre line to seal the win for Ulster.

Defending champions Saracens were beaten 10-3 by Munster to suffer their second loss in Pool 4.

Peter O'Mahony crossed for the game's only try in the 31st minute, with all the points scored prior to the interval, and the only sour moment for Munster came in the 82nd minute when Arno Botha was dismissed for dangerous play.

Teddy Thomas accounted for two of Racing 92's six tries in their 40-19 rout of Ospreys, who were left to rue Dan Evans' red card after just 37 seconds.

The full-back was given his marching orders for kicking Thomas in the face as he collected a high ball, and Ospreys never recovered.

Elsewhere, Lyon beat Benetton Treviso 28-0, while Glasgow Warriors edged past La Rochelle 27-24.

England captain Owen Farrell starred for Saracens as the Premiership champions defeated Bath 25-12 in their first league match since accepting a 35-point punishment.

Saracens initially questioned the £5.36million fine and large points deduction which was handed to them earlier in November as a penalty for breaching salary-cap rules.

However, the defending Premiership and European champions have since accepted the sanction, meaning they dropped to the bottom of the standings.

Farrell led the way as Mark McCall's side made it three successive wins, kicking 20 points in a convincing victory over eighth-placed Bath.

Three penalties from Rhys Priestland had given Bath the edge early on, but Sean Maitland's try and 11 points from Farrell put the away side in control by the break.

Farrell added a further nine points after the restart to wrap up the win, though Maro Itoje was sent to the sin bin late on.

Saracens' win puts McCall's team 22 points behind 11th-placed Leicester Tigers.

Saracens rebounded from an opening defeat to Racing 92 by hammering a depleted Ospreys side 44-3 in the European Champions Cup.

The holders have endured a miserable time of it lately after being hit with a mammoth £5.36million fine and 35-point Premiership deduction for breaching salary cap rules during the past three seasons.

But Elliot Daly impressed on his debut and England team-mates Mako Vunipola and George Kruis returned in a six-try showing.

Jack Singleton, Alex Lewington and Rotimi Segun (2) all touched down before a penalty try and a score from Richard Barrington put an Ospreys side devoid of Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Gareth Anscombe and George North to the sword.

Elsewhere in Pool 4, Finn Russell scored a superb nutmeg try as part of a fine display but Racing 92 played out a 21-21 draw at Munster.

Andrew Conway's 75th-minute score and J.J. Hanrahan's excellent conversion earned a point for the hosts at Thomond Park.

Stuart Hogg was on the winning side against former employees Glasgow Warriors as Exeter Chiefs triumphed 34-18 to make it two from two in Pool 2.

Henry Slade, Jonny Hill, Sam Simmonds and Tom O'Flaherty all scored tries, while Nick Grigg and George Turner registered for the Warriors.

Top 14 leaders Lyon lost for the second successive European game as last season's losing finalists Leinster scrapped to a 13-6 win on their travels – Max Deegan's first-half score ultimately proving crucial.

The other match in Pool 1 saw Northampton Saints record a thrilling 35-32 triumph at Benetton Treviso.

Dan Biggar nailed a last-gasp penalty to complete a fine fightback for Saints, who scored 17 second-half points – Ollie Sleightholme touching down and Tom Collins celebrating a second try of the game.

Connacht enjoyed a winning return to Europe's premier competition with an opening victory over Montpellier but were brought crashing back to earth in Pool 5, suffering a 32-17 defeat at Toulouse.

Rounding out the action, Harlequins edged out domestic rivals Bath 15-9 to get up and running in Pool 3.

Saracens have been fined for failing to attend the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup launch in Cardiff this month.

Sarries director of rugby Mark McCall and captain Brad Barritt were not present at the event on November 6, a day after the European champions were docked 35 Premiership points and fined £5.36million for breaching salary cap regulations.

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) imposed a financial penalty on the champions of England for the no-show in the Welsh capital.

The London club accepted their absence constituted a breach of Champions Cup media rules, compromising EPCR's ability to deliver the rights contracted to its broadcast, commercial and media partners.

Sarries accepted breaching the Champions Cup Participation Agreement and have paid an undisclosed sum to EPCR.

The three-time European champions on Monday revealed they would not appeal against their punishment for salary-cap breaches, as challenging the sanctions would be a "costly, time consuming and destabilising exercise."

McCall's, winners of the Champions Cup in three of the last four seasons, were beaten 30-10 at Racing 92 in their first game of the 2019-20 competition on Sunday.

Eddie Jones says there is a chance some of his England players will opt to miss the Six Nations in order to help Saracens avoid relegation.

Saracens confirmed on Monday they would not be appealing against the 35-point sanction and £5.36million fine they received for breaching the salary cap in each of the previous three seasons, leaving them well adrift at the bottom of the Premiership table.

Jones picked six Saracens players in his starting XV in the Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa, captain Owen Farrell joined by club colleagues Maro Itoje, Elliot Daly and Jamie George, plus brothers Mako and Billy Vunipola.

England head coach Jones, who had a spell as Sarries' director of rugby earlier in his career, is contemplating the possibility of being without some of those top names early next year.

He believes they may be tempted to help the three-time European champions dodge the drop, with the league season still taking place while England are in Six Nations action between February 2 and March 14.

"It could have a significant impact," Jones said to BBC Sport when asked about how Saracens' plight could impact the national team.

"It's something we need to weigh up and look at very carefully.

"Obviously there may be some dislocation between Saracens players and the rest of the clubs. That's a reality, so we may have to work to mend those relationships a bit harder.

"And there might be some Saracens players who feel like they've got to play for their club instead of their country, to make sure they don't go down. 

"So we'll weigh all those up as they come about."

Pushed on whether any knowledge of the situation could have weighed heavily on the minds of the Saracens players at the World Cup, Jones said: "It possibly could have - we don't know about that. 

"But I think the main thing is now what we do now going forward. We are going to have to work hard to make sure we get those relationships strong again."

The punishment for Saracens sees them drop to -22 points, 26 below 11th-placed Leicester Tigers.

Saracens have opted not to appeal against a mammoth 35-point deduction and a £5.36million fine imposed for breaching salary cap regulations.

It was deemed the Premiership and European champions failed to disclose payments and exceeded the limit for salaries to players in each of the previous three seasons.

All of the charges were upheld by an Independent Panel, which followed a nine-month investigation from Premiership Rugby.

The investigation was launched after it was revealed high-profile Sarries players had entered into investment or property partnerships with club owner Nigel Wray, who denied willingly breaching regulations but accepted "full responsibility for the arrangements that led to this outcome" in a statement published on Monday.

Sarries initially outlined their intention to challenge the ruling this month, stating they were "shocked and disappointed by these heavy-handed sanctions".

However, the club have decided not to pursue that route as they say "any review or further appeal would be a costly, time consuming and destabilising exercise".

Saracens' European Rugby Champions Cup defence started with a comprehensive defeat at Racing 92, while Dan Biggar kicked Northampton Saints to victory over Top 14 high-flyers Lyon on Sunday.

Sarries, who are reportedly not going to appeal against a 35-point domestic deduction for an alleged breach of salary cap rules, missed the quality of their England contingent still yet to return from Rugby World Cup duty in a 30-10 defeat in Paris.

Virimi Vakatawa broke through a gap in just the ninth minute to get Racing underway and Teddy Thomas, fresh off a hat-trick in last week's 25-9 beating of Stade Francais, squirmed over to stretch the lead.

Alex Lozowski finished for Saracens early in the second half after Nick Tompkins stole the ball when Finn Russell knocked on but the Scotland fly-half quickly made amends with a wonderful jinking try and Wenceslas Lauret completed a convincing Pool 4 success.

Biggar was making his first appearance since suffering World Cup semi-final heartache with Wales and was in fine form with the boot as Northampton earned a potentially priceless Pool 1 win.

The fly-half kicked 20 points, including six penalties, in the 25-14 beating of Top 14 leaders Lyon, who were outclassed at Franklin's Gardens.

Rory Hutchinson scored Saints' only try in the first half and Lyon missed out on a losing bonus point despite two second-half scores from Thibaut Regard.

Rounding out the action, a depleted Connacht side earned a fine 23-20 victory over Montpellier in their first Champions Cup outing in three years.

Backs Tiernan O'Halloran and Kieran Marmion were absent for the clash, as were big hitters Paddy McAllister, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, Gavin Thornbury and Sean O'Brien in the forwards.

However, tries from Paul Boyle, stand-in captain Tom McCartney and Caolin Blade helped Connacht start their Pool 5 campaign with a win at the Sportsground.

Alex Sanderson quoted popstar Taylor Swift to encapsulate Saracens' mentality this week, with the Premiership champions putting their off-field issues to one side to triumph at Gloucester.

Sarries returned to action on Saturday for the first time since they were docked 35 Premiership points and fined £5.36million for breaching salary cap regulations in each of the past three seasons.

The punishments are subject to review, with the club announcing their intention to appeal, and the team responded on the field in impressive fashion.

Sarries defeated Gloucester 21-12 at Kingsholm, where a number of rival fans were reported to have travelled to revel in the downfall of the country's leading team.

But coach Sanderson – part of director of rugby Mark McCall's backroom staff - provoked a reaction at full-time as he indicated towards the scoreboard as the home crowd jeered victorious Sarries.

He offered a light-hearted explanation to BT Sport in the aftermath, surprisingly using Swift's hit track Shake It Off.

"To quote the immortal words of Taylor Swift - haters gonna hate, hate, hate, players gonna play," he told BT Sport.

"I don't mean to belittle the scenario - I don't want to at all - but that's just our mentality. We've got to accept the hate we're going to receive. We're going to crack on and just play."

Sanderson does not believe Sarries should have been on the end of such anger from the rest of the Premiership, yet he added the travelling team had been motivated as a result.

"Yeah, we've used it, we've used the anger this week to fuel us," he said. "You can't use that for a full season because of the negative energy.

"We've got to go on, crack on, look strategically at what we're going to do this season and how we're going about it. This week, I can't be more impressed with the boys' application in the week and on the field."

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