|Outside: (21) 35|
|Try: S Simmonds, Woodburn, Cowan-Dickie 2, Slade The inconvenients: J. Simmonds 5|
|Northampton: (0) 12|
|Try: Dingwall, overseer The inconvenients: Furbank|
Exeter regained some of their former brilliance as they raced in five tries to beat Northampton 35-12 at Sandy Park.
Close tries from Sam Simmonds and Olly Woodburn put Exeter 14-0 up after 15 minutes before Luke Cowan-Dickie was maimed for a third.
The England hooker scored a second shortly after the restart before Fraser Dingwall crossed for Northampton.
But Henry Slade’s interception score ended the game as a contest before Matt Proctor pulled out another try.
The bonus points win – Exeter’s sixth in 12 league games – takes them from eighth to fifth in the table as Saints move up to sixth.
Exeter are one point behind third-placed Harlequins and fourth-placed Gloucester, with Northampton a point further back, while just 10 points separate Bristol from the top three.
A stuttering Exeter entered the game with something to prove after being humiliated against Saracens last week – with all six runners-up losing more games than they won in the first half of the season.
But Simmonds’ first try rewarded the hosts’ efforts – after being held back over the Saints line, the England number eight was on hand to pass into the corner a few phases later.
The Devon side pack got the better of the breakdown – Woodburn’s try after 15 minutes came after Harry Williams stole the ball on a ruck before Josh Hodge’s blistering run on the left wing establishes position on the pitch for the wing to dive.
Saints were hoping to build on their impressive win over Harlequins a week earlier but struggled to win a single ball in the first half – their only forays into Exeter’s half ended with an assist in forward and a penalty for holding the ruck.
Cowan-Dickie was forced in for the Chiefs’ third down after Solomone Kata was tackled in the air and they kicked into the corner to set up another line drive.
It was more or less the same after the break and four phases after a 44th-minute tap penalty Cowan-Dickie was over for his second.
The Saints gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Dingwall scored in the left corner four minutes later. Alex Mitchell’s long pass freed the cross after Northampton drew the Exeter defense under the posts in their first half pressure on the Chiefs line.
But the pendulum swung the other way when Slade raced across the run of play before Josh Hodge sprinted back to stop Mitchell from passing after a mistake by Jack Nowell.
Proctor powered in a soft tackle to score unopposed with 15 minutes remaining for a Saints second try, but a combination of poor decision-making and good defending from Exeter limited Northampton’s chances as time slid was flowing.
The victory gives Exeter a much-needed boost of confidence as they prepare for their first-ever Champions Cup trip to South Africa to face the Bulls in Pretoria.
Exeter head coach Ali Hepher told BBC Sport:
“I thought tactically, overall, we were superb. We didn’t play with the ball, which was really the plan, because when we went around the halfway line, you run into problems with the defense line speed under these conditions.
“There were elements of our game that we would like to improve – the scrum was probably key for them – but our maul put us ahead in that first half and ultimately got us the win.
“We moved around the park well, much faster. We really learned that last week – we hit pretty hard this week – and that was the reaction we wanted.
“We are a young, improving team, there are a lot of youngsters today who learned a lot today and last week as well.”
Northampton director of rugby Phil Dowson told BBC Sport:
“It’s disappointing in many ways and all the players feel the same way. We didn’t do it right today and we need to figure out why.
“In the first half, we had two lineouts in their 22 and we didn’t hit either of them. In the second half, I can’t think of many times they had lineouts, but they did. won penalties, scored the first to blow it up 28-0, so the start of the second half felt a lot like the first half.
“After that, we showed some snippets, but it was too little, too late.”
Outside: Hodge; Nowell, Slade, Kata, Woodburn; J Simmonds, S Maunder; Sio; Cowan-Dickie (captain), Williams, Jenkins, Dunne, Ewers, Tshiunza, S Simmonds.
Replacements: Yeandle, Kenny, Iosefa-Scott, van Heerden, Fisilau, J Maunder, Skinner, O’Loughlin.
Northampton: Free man; Ramm, Proctor, Dingwall, Skosan; Furbank, Mitchell; Waller, Haywood, Hill, Coles, Moon, Salakaia-Loto, Scott-Young, Ludlam (captain).
Replacements: Smith, Yogun, Petch, Wilkins, Graham, Braley, Hutchinson, Collins.
Arbitrator: Adam Leal
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