Northampton 19-22 Exeter: Second tier of Premier League leaders take sixth consecutive win to hurt sorry Saints’ hopes of playoffs
- Exeter Chiefs headed to Franklin’s Gardens on Friday to take on Northampton Saints
- The Chiefs cemented their dominance at the top of the Premiership with a victory
- The match marked Exeter’s 10th anniversary in the top league of rugby
Exeter celebrated their 10th anniversary in the Premiership by bolstering their dominant position at the top of the table – and condemning Northampton to a sixth straight home loss.
For the Saints, this is now a record-breaking order of league results at Franklin’s Gardens and nearly an end to their fading title expectations. For Exeter, another emphatic demonstration of squad depth saw their reserve line-up claim another big scalp on the road, following Bristol’s epic victory at Ashton Gate 10 days earlier.
Rob Baxter’s imperious Chiefs thus appropriately marked a milestone in the club. Exactly ten years after beating Gloucester in their first-ever Premiership match, the Devons won in the East Midlands with a team of two experienced survivors of that momentous occasion; Gareth Steenson and Phil Dollman.
Exeter Chiefs marched to a sixth straight win at the top of the Premiership on Friday night
The Chiefs reserves sentenced the Northampton Saints to a sixth home loss in a row
It didn’t take long for more writing to be on Northampton’s walls as the flowing visitors claimed a two-digit lead. In the seventh minute, Exeter shot at the front with a sweeping long-range attempt.
Tom O’Flaherty made good ground on the right and after Tomas Francis crashed, Sean Lonsdale was released through a hole and shot past George Furbank’s attempt to land.
Steenson repented and was heavily involved in the Chiefs’ next attempt five minutes later. The fly-half’s inside pass enabled the superb Exeter blindside Jannes Kirsten to gallop through the splintered Northampton ranks and ride off to the posts, with Steenson adding the extras.
Exeter celebrated their 10th anniversary in style with a win, continuing their dominance
The hosts seemed in danger of capitulating, but, to their credit, they rallied. A multiphase, route-one attack paved the way for David Ribbans to skip, before an attempt converted by Dan Biggar.
Then, a minute before halftime, Biggar’s pass put James Fish into space and the hooker sent scrum-half Henry Taylor to the line, making it 12-14.
Three minutes into half time, Rory Hutchinson’s break cut open Exeter, Biggar maintained the momentum and Ribbans bumped into English backing Alec Hepburn to land. Biggar’s extras got 19 unanswered points by Chris Boyd’s men.
Dan Biggar contributed two conversions for Northampton, but it wasn’t enough for the Saints
But the Chiefs have the winning habit. A penalty kick from Steenson narrowed the deficit and O’Flaherty shot over into the left corner nine minutes before the end. The match winner said, “It was an old-fashioned ding-dong.
It doesn’t matter which team we deploy, we are going to enjoy it. We have to keep going. Asked if the playoffs are now out of reach for Northampton, a dejected Boyd said: ‘I think so. We’ve probably let ourselves do too much. ‘