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Post-Match Review

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Team 1

Team Icon
Team Name
Exeter Chiefs
Team Score
36

Team 2

Team Icon
Team Name
Northampton Saints
Team Score
12

Pictures: Exeter Rugby Club/Pinnacle Photo Agency

Exeter Chiefs 36

Northampton Saints 12

Mark Stevens at Sandy Park

These are indeed heady days for Rob Baxter and his Exeter Chiefs side after they became the first Aviva Premiership Rugby side to secure seven straight bonus-point wins with their biggest-ever victory against Northampton Saints.

Devon’s finest kept up their quest for a home semi-final in this season play-offs with another polished, six-try blast here at Sandy Park.

Northampton had the first word through JJ Hanrahan and the last through Ahsee Tuala, but in between they were no match for the high-flying Chiefs, who powered to a 14th league win of the season thanks to an Olly Woodburn double and further touchdowns from Don Armand, Ian Whitten, Jack Nowell and Sam Hill.

It means victory at Gloucester next week and Baxter’s side will again have home advantage in their quest to reach the Twickenham showpiece next month.

Who they will face, however, will not be known until the close of play in what should be an enthralling Round 22, where there are more conundrums than on Channel 4’s Countdown.

With leaders Wasps facing third-placed Saracens at the Ricoh, something is sure to give in the race to be crowned 2017 Premiership Kings.

On this display, the Chiefs once again underlined their title credentials. Despite leaking a fifth minute try to Hanrahan, who picked off an intercept pass from Ollie Devoto, it was all one-way traffic despite the home side playing into a strong first half wind.

Although the visitors struck first, Jim Mallinder’s Saints outfit spent much of the first half on the defensive and it seemed inevitable that the Chiefs would hit back.

Initially the Chiefs – who lost Greg Holmes and Dave Ewers to early injuries – were guilty of trying to over complicate things. When they did get it right midway through the half, Nowell was unable to apply the finishing touch in the right corner, thanks in the main to a stunning last-gasp tackle from Ben Foden.

The let-off lasted only a moment of minutes as back roared the Devonians, using their heavyweight pack to punch holes into the Northampton rearguard that Britain’s Anthony Joshua would have been proud of. In the end, the power play of the Chiefs fashioned the opening for Armand to cross by the sticks and Gareth Steenson added the extras.

Minutes later and the hosts were at it again, this time making the most of winger Ken Pisi’s yellow card to score a second try. On this occasion a driving maul was halted by stout Northampton defence, after which the lively Stuart Townsend fed Woodburn on the blindside and the in-form winger needed no showing where the line was.

The Chiefs could – and probably should – have added to their lead before the break, but it was a more than useful return against the elements.

HALF TIME    EXETER CHIEFS 12    NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 7

The second half was little more than a minute old when the Chiefs struck for a third time, Irish international Ian Whitten turning on the after burners to storm through the heart of the Saints defence after Woodburn had earlier wreaked havoc with another of his trademark bursts.

Keen to apply further pressure to the expose Saints jugular, the Chiefs continued to pile forward in numbers. Exeter’s dominance in all facets was clear to see, particularly out wide where Woodburn and Nowell were a constant threat with their skills and lines of running.

Luke Cowan-Dickie, on as a replacement for skipper Jack Yeandle, thought he had bagged the all-important fourth score, only to see if chalked off on review by referee JP Doyle in consultation with the TV match official.

Fellow Cornishman Nowell, however, was able to celebrate when the officials consulted one another once again just before the hour mark. The England international – recently selected into Warren Gatland’s 41-man Lions squad – this time rounded off a stunning attacking move for the record-breaking bonus point score.

With a comfortable buffer, the Chiefs – in front of another Sandy Park sell-out – continued to pile forward and came within a whisker of adding another try through Lachie Turner. Looking to latch onto a clever kick in behind from the returning Will Chudley, the Aussie international hacked on a little too hard for his liking and was unable to dot down, despite outpacing Foden in the foot race for the line.

Home disappointment proved short-lived as just moments later replacement Sam Hill got in on the scoring act, using his hulking frame and serious leg drive to bulldoze his way to the line for an impressive fifth try.

Woodburn, who was crowned Supporters’ Club Player of the Year at the final whistle, put the gloss on proceedings adding a late sixth try, only for the Saints to grab a late consolation of their own when Fijian full-back Tuala stole over in the left corner with virtually the last move of the game.

By then the Chiefs were already looking to an exciting few weeks ahead, the start of which begins in a week’s time with testing trip to old rivals Gloucester.

Chiefs: L Turner; J Nowell, I Whitten, O Devoto (S Hill 55), O Woodburn; G Steenson (J Simmonds 70), S Townsend (W Chudley 52); C Rimmer (B Moon 49), J Yeandle (capt, L Cowan-Dickie 55), G Holmes (H Williams 6, C Rimmer 74); D Dennis, G Parling; D Ewers (J Salvi 11), D Armand (O Atkins 64), K Horstmann.

Tries – Armand, Woodburn (2), Whitten, Nowell, S Hill; Conversions – Steenson (2), J Simmonds

Saints: A Tuala; K Pisi (J-P Estelles 52, K Pisi 79), L Burrell, H Mallinder, B Foden (N Tuitavake 68); JJ Hanrahan, N Groom (L Dickson 59); A Waller (C Ma’afu 57), D Hartley (capt, M Haywood 59), K Brookes (G Denman 57); C Day (A Ratuniyarawa 58), D Ribbans; C Lawes (S Dickinson 21, C Day 79), J Gibson, T Harrison.

Tries – Hanrahan, Tuala; Conversion – Hanrahan

Yellow Card: K Pisi

Referee; JP Doyle

Attendance: 12,284