TWICKENHAM -- For the second year running, Twickenham will be painted in a shade of red and black; the all-encompassing might of Saracens' brutal physicality has again guided them to the Aviva Premiership title.
At half time, it looked like Saracens were about to hand out the most brutal of lessons to Exeter, yet the Chiefs, to their eternal credit, battled back in the second half and at stages had the champions on the ropes. The Devonians dared to dream when Jack Nowell scored to make it a three-point game yet Saracens' nous of what it takes to win finals saw them re-find their intensity as they closed out the match and secured the title.
Twickenham was a rugby temple on Saturday; the supporters were magnificent, the noise sensational and as the sun hammered down on the pristine turf, it was oval-ball nirvana. The sound of the tomahawk chop drifted on the overground line into Twickenham station, up the roads surrounding the old cabbage patch and hovered over the various beer gardens. It was a brilliant occasion, the sort that makes those dark days of the World Cup for English rugby seem like decades ago rather than a short matter of months. The only thing that the occasion lacked was sun cream.
Saracens are now cemented as the dominant force in Europe. They have completed the first double by an English club since that great Wasps side secured theirs in 2004 with Maro Itoje, Chris Wyles, Richard Wigglesworth, Alex Goode, Schalk Brits and Chris Ashton at the forefront of their 28-20 triumph.
Itoje has had numerous platitudes levelled in his direction and all are deserved -- his is a unique, wonderful talent. Wyles, arguably the unsung hero in this Saracens side, was brilliant as was his wing partner Ashton who went hunting for blood both in attack and defence. Brits was magnificent in the loose while Wigglesworth's box kicks kept Exeter pinned back in their own half and stopped any momentum.
And then there was Goode, the fullback who has an incredible knack of creating space whenever he gets the ball. His was the try that took the wind out of Exeter's sails and stopped their resurgence as it was threatening to ruin Saracens' party.
But it is the power of the collective whole over the individual that saw Saracens home. Their swarming defence is a ferocious beast while they have a superb habit of finding their way back into the fight when they seem to be on the canvas.
Exeter showed similar characteristics but in the biggest game in the club's history, they started poorly and lacked a calmness and precision in their game management. Box kicks found touch or calm Saracens hands instead of a contestable situation.
This was corrected in the second half and their bench made a healthy impact but there was too much to do after their first-half performance. There seemed to be some nerves in the Exeter ranks; Henry Slade had a very uncharacteristic off day and will lament the two bites he had at Wyles who dodged the attempted tackle to score Saracens' second try. But Slade played a key role in teeing up Nowell's try which was a thoroughly deserved score for the brilliant Exeter winger. He never stopped running and will hope to take that form to Australia.
The Chiefs will learn from this heartbreak; more often than not in sport a team has to experience the bitterness of defeat before they get to taste the sweetness of victory. They have a wonderful setup at Sandy Park, a great coaching staff and a team packed with longevity and potential. Their supporters were a credit to the Premiership with the booming tomahawk chop raising the old stadium into a wonderful celebration of the sport.
But this is the time of Saracens. They bid farewell to Charlie Hodgson who moves into the club's backroom staff but they boast a young crop of players who have the ability to dominate domestic rugby for years to come.
Last year Saracens blew away Bath in the final and then came the questions over whether they could back it up the following season. Instead, they have improved and added the European Cup to their now growing trophy cabinet in Barnet. It will take some effort to prevent next year's final ending up basking in the glow of the red and black of Saracens.