Saracens rally to beat Exeter Chiefs in epic, 10-try Premiership final

Charlie Morgan
Saracens lift the Gallagher Premiership trophy after an absorbing final against Exeter Chiefs - Getty Images Europe

  • Exeter Chiefs 34 Saracens 37

Saracens completed a memorable European and domestic double after retaining the Premiership title by beating Exeter 37-34 at Twickenham.

The teams shared 10 tries during unquestionably the greatest Premiership final in its 16-year history.

Exeter led after just 28 seconds when scrum-half Nic White claimed the quickest Premiership final touchdown, but Saracens ultimately prevailed.

The Chiefs led by 11 points after an hour, yet Saracens produced a stellar comeback.

Wings Liam Williams and Sean Maitland touched down, following earlier tries from hooker Jamie George and scrum-half Ben Spencer, before George added a second and Farrell kicked 12 points.

White, flanker Dave Ewers, lock Jonny Hill, centre Henry Slade and substitute Sam Hill crossed for Exeter, and Joe Simmonds added three conversions and a penalty, but the Chiefs once again experienced Twickenham heartbreak.

It was the third time in four seasons for the 2017 champions to lose a final - all against Saracens - as Farrell and company followed up European title success three weeks ago with another trophy.

And it meant a second double in four years, emulating Leicester as only the second English club to achieve such a feat.



"It was a heck of a game with moments all over the place where momentum swung"

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 Rob Baxter says "yes and no" to the question of whether this season hurts more than last.

 "We're hurt now. I'm hurting. But it's about how we use that. We can use this in pre-season. We went toe-to-toe with the European champions. I've just said to the lads it's up to them how much they want to improve now."


"I won't be in my full kit. It's only a tradition for European games"

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Goode admits Saracens were on the canvas. Alex Sanderson says the players have taught the coaches about toughness in recent weeks.

"They're an extraordinary group."


"We were clearly second best in the first half"

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Mark McCall on Saracens' reaction to Henry Slade's try:

"I think a lot of teams get crushed in that moment. Somehow, we weren't crushed. I thought we played superb pressure rugby in the last 20 minutes."


There it is

This is some team.

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  • Nic White scored the fastest-ever Premiership Rugby Final try after 27 seconds
  • Saracens produced the biggest-ever comeback in a Premiership final by coming from 11 points down
  • The 71 points scored were the most in a Premiership final


All eyes on Jack Nowell

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 For England's sake. you have to hope that Nowell's injury is not serious enough to rule him out of Rugby World Cup 2019.


"We're never happy with what we've done"

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 "Trust me," says Jamie George. "We're going to be pretty upset with the way we played today."


"For large parts of that game, we were in charge"

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 Exeter skipper Jack Yeandle admits that this defeat probably hurts even more than last year's.


"Exeter are formidable opponents"

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 Brad Barritt doesn't seem to know how he managed to get 40 minutes out of a torn hamstring.


"Every year we have to dig a little deeper"

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Maro Itoje salutes the entire Saracens squad.

"That game was all character. For large parts of the game, we didn't play well."


Try, Sam Hill! Exeter Chiefs 34 Saracens 37 | Full-time 

The lineout sails over the top. Sam Hill storms through midfield and dives over. The clock is red, though. Simmonds converts but it is too late for Exeter.

What a game.


Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 37, 79 minutes

It's ragged. Saracens concede a penalty to going offside. Maro Itoje is awarded the official man of the match gong:

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Try, Jamie George! Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 37, 76 minutes

That's it. Surely. Saracens stay calm close to the line until unleashing George, who slips a tackle and goes in under the posts.

Farrell converts. They have a 10-point lead. 


Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 30, 75 minutes 

Itoje catches the 22 drop-out brilliantly. Saracens go through a few phases and then Farrell skips a grubber into touch just five out from Exeter's line.

Saracens steal the lineout through Itoje!


Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 30, 74 minutes

Wow. It's a straightforward kick for Farrell...

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 ...but he hooks it to the left.


Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 30, 72 minutes   

Christian Judge forces a scrum penalty with his first contribution as Barnes penalises Alec Hepburn.

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Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 30, 70 minutes  

Back and forth go a couple of box-kicks. Exeter recover Maunder's effort through Dave Dennis and seem to have an overlap...but then Kvesic spills. It'll be a Saracens scrum just outside the Exeter 22. 

Christian Judge replaces Vincent Koch, who has been outstanding.


Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 30, 69 minutes 

Nowell is limping off to a standing ovation. He's been superb.

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Eddie Jones will desperately hope that he can recover for Japan. For now, Gareth Steenson comes on. 


Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 30, 69 minutes

Oh no. Jack Nowell has gone over awkwardly. That could be very serious.

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 Barnes stopped the game straightaway. It looks like his left ankle.


Try, Sean Maitland! Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 30, 67 minutes

Jack Maunder kicks with his first touch and it's slightly too long. Williams breaks through then Wigglesworth snipes. Rhodes and George pile through with some dainty offloading and Saracens spread the ball wide through Tompkins and Lozowski to Maitland.

Farrell splits the posts from out wide.


Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 23, 65 minutes 

Nic White comes off. He's been excellent for Exeter.

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Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 23, 64 minutes

Exeter in possession around their own 10-metre line. White lifts a box-kick and Williams takes it. Saracens come again and return the box-kicking through Wigglesworth. Simmonds gathers but Itoje snaffles a breakdown turnover.

Goode finds Maitland with a neat cut-out pass but Exeter cover across. They'll have a lineout.


Match action

Slade's stunning try here.


Try, Liam Williams! Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 23, 61 minutes

Wow. Saracens win back the restart and Maitland tears down Saracens' left following Alex Goode's lofted pass. Owen Farrell then dinks a cross-field kick to Williams, who climbs above Simmonds and scores.

Farrell adds a touchline conversion. This game is delivering.


Try, Henry Slade! Exeter Chiefs 27 Saracens 16, 58 minutes

Is that it? What a try to seal it if so. Nowell sashays across the field to make the initial break. All three of Exeter's back-field then flood down the left flank. 

When the ball breaks back right, Sam Skinner lifts a lovely offload to Slade. Simmonds misses the conversion.


Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 55 minutes       

Itoje is pinged on the edge of Exeter's 22 for failing to roll away from a tackle. Great kick from Henry Slade. 

Isiekwe does come on for Wray.


Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 54 minutes      

Wray needs attention from the Saracens physios. Nick Isiekwe gets ready...he's not needed, though.


"Exeter have brought the game to us"

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Alex Sanderson (bottom corner, there) says that Saracens had a choice to make at half-time. They could either "stop feeling sorry for ourselves in this heat" or start bringing the game to Exeter.

As he speaks, Saracens win a maul turnover. "I'm backing them," says Sanderson.


Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 53 minutes     

Lozowski just forces an offload that sails forward.

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Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 52 minutes    

No. Lozowski dotted it down before Cuthbert reached it. It's a 22 drop-out to Saracens.



Has Alex Cuthbert scored for Exeter?


Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 50 minutes   

Saracens' attack is not quite clicking here. There's a spill out wide from Lozowski and then Billy Vunipola cannot gather a pass from Wigglesworth.


Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 50 minutes  

Michael Rhodes replaces Will Skelton and Sam Skinner comes on for Jonny Hill.


Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 48 minutes 

Superb defence from Exeter. Farrell's pass sends Tompkins on an outside arc...

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 ...but Nowell trusts O'Flaherty to make the tackle and his faith is rewarded. Tompkins' offload goes into touch.

Saracens pressurise White from the lineout and will have a lineout just outside the Chiefs 22.


Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 47 minutes

Clever dink from Wigglesworth. Simmonds has to go back and clears into touch. Sarcens' lineout maul eats up 10 metres. They're inside the Exeter 22...


Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 46 minutes   

Exeter replace their entire front row.

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Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 44 minutes  

Nowell has another dart but is held up by Koch and Jackson Wray, who then rips the ball away. Devoto is caught offside, so Saracens hit touch.


Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 43 minutes 

Chiefs throw over the top to Devoto and then bounce back blind. Itoje gets over the ball but is not supporting his bodyweight. Another Exeter penalty, another kick to the corner...Kruis steals the lineout and Wigglesworth boots away.


Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16, 42 minutes

Scrum to Saracens. Liam Williams steps up at first-receiver and spills. Then he is penalised for playing the ball on the floor. Simmonds kicks to touch. Chiefs lineout just beyond the Saracens 10-metre line.


Second half

Farrell kicks, Nowell takes and slips a tackle. This could be a double blow for Saracens. After Nic White's box-kick, Ben Spencer and Liam Williams collide. They are both down.

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 Spencer is coming off. Richard Wigglesworth replaces him.


Players back out

A significant but not entirely surprising change for Saracens. Brad Barritt is off. Nick Tompkins is on.

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Those gain-line successes - with clever tip-on passes and Jack Nowell popping up everywhere - have been telling.

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Penalty, Joe Simmonds! Exeter Chiefs 22 Saracens 16 | Half-time

Easy kick. That's the end of a fascinating first half.


Exeter Chiefs 19 Saracens 13, 39 minutes 

Huge moment in defence from Alex Goode. Nowell goes so close and then Ewers barges from the base of a ruck...but the Saracens full-back gets underneath the ball. It's held up over the line and Exeter have a five-metre put-in.

Free-kick Chiefs...they want another put-in. The clock is red. Huge moment.

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Penalty Exeter now...interesting. They are going to take the points. 


He's been everywhere


Exeter Chiefs 19 Saracens 13, 38 minutes

This is relentless from Exeter. They have crossed the Saracens 22 again...


Penalty, Owen Farrell! Exeter Chiefs 19 Saracens 13, 35 minutes

We have a three-point game.


Exeter Chiefs 19 Saracens 13, 34 minutes

Nich White darts around an unguarded ruck and steals the ball...but Moon is penalised for getting up after being tackled. It's within Farrell's range.


Match action

Here is Saracens' first try. It already feels like a long time ago.


Try,  Jonny Hill! Exeter Chiefs 19 Saracens 13, 32 minutes

White snipes again and Hill powers over from close range. Saracens are going to have to dig deep here. 

Itoje returns to the field...and Simmonds' conversion hits the post.


Exeter Chiefs 14 Saracens 13, 30 minutes    

Super from Exeter. Jack Nowell is buzzing around the field getting as many touches as possible and Saracens are creaking.


Exeter Chiefs 14 Saracens 13, 27 minutes   

Exeter build momentum on the edge of the Saracens 22 but then Farrell speeds up and Harry Williams knocks on. Saracens put into the scrum and get a free-kick. They hit it high but Exeter field and run it back.


Exeter Chiefs 14 Saracens 13, 26 minutes  

Bright moments for Exeter. They sweep from left to right with Tom O'Flaherty and then Dave Dennis making ground. Liam Williams gets over the ball but is in touch. Exeter lineout.


Exeter Chiefs 14 Saracens 13, 25 minutes 

Will Skelton takes a pass and heads across-field. A few phases later, Saracens have eaten up 30 metres with some slick phase-play. Alex Goode then snakes a grubber into touch just outside Exeter's 22.


"We're going to have to win a few collisions to stall this momentum"

Credit: BT Sport


Exeter Chiefs 14 Saracens 13, 22 minutes

Slade gathers the restart and Maitland tackles him. Seven minutes left on Itoje's bin now. Exeter just about win that kicking exchange. They have a lineout just over halfway.


Try, Dave Ewers! Exeter Chiefs 14 Saracens 13, 20 minutes

This is a brilliant final so far. Ewers muscles over. Simmonds converts nervelessly from out wide.


Yellow card, Maro Itoje! 

Barnes sends Itoje to the sin bin.

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Simmonds goes to the corner once more. Chiefs are into more picking and going...


Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 13, 18 minutes  

It's a dummy drive from Exeter and Ollie Devoto punches close. Desperate stuff from Saracens in defence... they've held it up again. But Barnes has seen another offence.


Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 13, 17 minutes 

Saracens escape without conceding a try but Barnes pings them for offside. No prizes for guessing what is next. Simmonds dinks into the corner.


Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 13, 16 minutes

Saracens mess up another restart and Exeter are within a metre...


Try, Ben Spencer! Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 13, 14 minutes

Power play from Saracens. Billy Vunipola storms off the base, Itoje and George Kruis career around the corner and Spencer snipes to score. Kevin Sorrell punches the air in Saracens' coaches' box. You can just see the England coaches on the row below:

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 Hmm...Farrell's conversion misses.


Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 8, 13 minutes  

Barnes blows up at the scrum. I think that was a free-kick. Yep. Saracens opt for a scrum. This is the final play of Henry Slade's yellow.


Match action

Here's Nic white's early try.


Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 8, 11 minutes 

This is very good and Saracens are really stretching 14-man Chiefs. Farrell's grubber requires Nowell to scamper across and stay strong. When Nice White clears, Goode finds Farrell and then Billy Vunipola carves up the middle and gets away an offload to Vincent Koch. 

There is space out wide...but Itoje's tip-on goes forward.


Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 8, 10 minutes

Matt Kvesic is penalised at the breakdown after Lozowski's gather. "Every time" shouts Owen Farrell in Wayne Barnes' ear.


Penalty, Owen Farrell! Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 8, 9 minutes

Nice strike.


Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 5, 7 minutes 

Billy Vunipola links with Alex Goode from the base of the scrum and an miss-pass sends Sean Maitland over the gain-line. Dave Ewers makes the tackle but does not roll away as Alex Cuthbert pounces to contest. Penalty to Saracens. Owen Farrell lines it up.

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Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 5, 7 minutes

Saracens deal with the restart far more securely this time. Ben Spencer hoists a box-kick and Exeter gather the ricochet...but then White's kick bobbles over the dead-ball line. Scrum to Saracens close to halfway.


Try, Jamie George! Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 5, 4 minutes

George hits Jackson Wray at the front and that driving maul is irresistible.  The hooker burrows over at the back. Owen Farrell's conversion fades to the left of the posts.


Yellow card, Henry Slade, 3 minutes

No penalty try - Jack Nowell was covering. Slade sees yellow, though.

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Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 0, 3 minutes

It's still frantic. Saracens regather the restart and Billy Vunipola makes ground. Saracens spread the ball wide and there might be a deliberate knock-on from Henry Slade...

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 ...this could be a yellow card.


Try, Nic White! Exeter Chiefs 7 Saracens 0, 2 minutes

What a start! White burrows over after 27 seconds!

George Kruis spilled the kick-off and Ben Spencer couldn't gather the ball either. Alex Cuthbert rushed through to bring it under control and then White sold a dummy, ducked under Itoje and scored.

Simmonds nails the conversion.



And we're away! Joe Simmonds gets us going after a long, long blast from Wayne Barnes...


Players ready

Here they come.

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The prize

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Man in the middle

Wayne Barnes takes charge of this one. It's his ninth Premiership final, which is a special achievement.

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"There's no better way of improving as a side than featuring in these big games against great teams"

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 Rob Baxter says doesn't see his side as underdogs, but he can understand it. "If we're going to have a chance, it's going to be a horrible game."


Twenty minutes until kick-off

Nearly there.


"Defensively, they've increased their line-speed"

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Mark McCall says that Exeter's individuals are playing better than they were a year ago. This, he believes, will be a different proposition for Saracens.


Matt Kvesic interview

A year ago, Matt Kvesic was coming to terms with the Exeter gameplan. He did not make the match-day 23 for the defeat to Saracens. This season, he has been fundamental part of their march to the final.

Mick Cleary caught up with him down in Devon this week.

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No late changes

Brad Barritt definitely starts, according to the teamsheets handed out to the media.


"It's been a bit of a weird one at 15 over the last few weeks...I've not had to do much"

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Jack Nowell praises Tom O'Flaherty and Alex Cuthbert for their communication. Exeter's back three will be very busy today.


"We have to try to stop their big ball carriers"

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Straightforward stuff from Will Skelton when asked about Exeter's ball-carriers and penchant for keeping possession:

"We have to D-up. And smash them."


Is this man Saracens' secret weapon?

Here's an interview with Dan Vickers, the understated and unsung kicking coach who has developed Saracen's go-to weapon during his 13 years at the club.

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Aerial excellence against punchy pressure

Will Greenwood weighs up both teams.

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"To call Exeter boring is grossly unfair"

Austin Healey's column this week looks at the criticism of Exeter Chiefs' playing style. Here's a taster:

Are they the reincarnation of the 1973 Barbarians? No. Are they a side that plays to their strengths? Undoubtedly, but they should make no apology for that. 

Read the full thing here.


Rare footage of Brad Barritt actually flinching

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Have Exeter moved on enough to trouble Saracens?

Here is a look at the tactical tweaks that Exeter have made this year. There is some clever stuff in there which has the fingerprints of Ali Hepher all over it.

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One hour to go

Score predictions below the line please. 


Boring? Not us

A typically articulate, assertive riposte from Rob Baxter to criticsim of Exeter's playing style here

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What's in that notebook?

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 Some last-minute lineout revision, maybe?





We've taken a closer look at a couple of tries Saracens scored during their 44-19 thrashing of Gloucester and how those passages define their approach.


Behind the scenes

All lies still the Saracens changing room.

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Players in the house

Exeter's players file past their fans:

Credit: Action Images via Reuters 


Hi there

Here we go, then. The best two teams in the Premiership – by a long way – have reached the domestic decider. Twickenham is bathed in warm sunshine. It should be a fitting finale to a fascinating season.

This 2018-19 campaign has featured some unpredictable aspects. Few could have foreseen Newcastle Falcons, play-off qualifiers last season, going down to the Championship. Although there were a few signposts to Leicester Tigers’ demise, the extent of their drastic slump has been surprising.

Credit: Getty Images Europe 

However, the superiority of Exeter Chiefs and Saracens was palpably expected. Since the second week of the fixture schedule way back in early September, they have occupied the top two spots on the table. Seven days ago, they brushed aside Gloucester and Northampton respectively with comprehensive semi-final victories.  

This week’s build-up, which we will get to shortly, has been interesting. Rob Baxter has been forced to defend Exeter’s playing style. Here is the team that Chiefs’ director of rugby has selected. It is unchanged from the Saints win. Santiago Cordero, though fit and in full training following a knee injury, is not risked.

15. Jack Nowell, 14. Alex Cuthbert, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Ollie Devoto, 11. Tom O’Flaherty, 10. Joe Simmonds, 9. Nic White; 1. Ben Moon, 2. Jack Yeandle (captain), 3. Harry Williams, 4. Dave Dennis, 5. Jonny Hill, 6. Dave Ewers, 7. Don Armand, 8. Matt Kvesic
Replacements: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Alec Hepburn, 18. Tomas Francis 19. Sam Skinner 20. Sam Simmonds, 21. Jack Maunder, 22. Gareth Steenson, 23. Sam Hill

The big news as far as Saracens’ squad is that Mark McCall has picked skipper Brad Barrit, who tore a hamstring – yes, tore a hamstring – against Gloucester. We will see how long the granite inside centre lasts…or, indeed, whether he starts at all. Saracens look like this:

15. Alex Goode, 14. Liam Williams, 13. Alex Lozowski, 12. Brad Barritt (captain), 11. Sean Maitland, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Ben Spencer; 1. Richard Barrington, 2. Jamie George, 3. Vincent Koch, 4. Will Skelton, 5. George Kruis, 6. Maro Itoje, 7. Jackson Wray, 8. Billy Vunipola
Replacements: 16. Tom Woolstencroft, 17. Ralph Adams-Hale, 18. Christian Judge, 19. Nick Isiekwe, 20. Schalk Burger, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Nick Tompkins, 23. David Strettle