The Exeter Chiefs had an agonisingly close win of 22-19 at Franklin’s Gardens against Northampton. The win cemented their place at the top of the Premiership log.
The Chiefs' showed commitment and a willingness to deliver as they continued their impressive return to rugby since the restart.
Converted first-half tries for Sean Lonsdale and Jannes Kirsten helped the Chiefs to a slender half time lead before a second-half penalty from Gareth Steenson and a late try from Tom O’Flaherty sealed a priceless victory.
A top-four finish in the Gallagher Premiership now looks to be beyond Northampton Saints after a third consecutive defeat. The Saints are now left with a mountain to climb if they are to reach the play-offs – with only four games of the regular season left to play.
Saints: Tries: Ribbans (2), Taylor. Conversions: Biggar (2)
Chiefs: Tries: Lonsdale, Kirsten, O'Flaherty. Conversions: Steenson (2). Penalty: Steenson.
Northampton Saints hosts Exeter Chiefs on Friday 4 September at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton 8.45 pm SA time. Exeter Chiefs are the leaders on the Premiership log with 64 points while Northampton Saint is 6th on the log with 40 log points.
Northampton Saints have won just twice in the last nine rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby, both away from home, at Worcester on 6 March and at London Irish on 22 August. Northampton have slipped to five straight defeats at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership Rugby to equal their worst ever home run in the competition, originally set in 2004.
Exeter Chiefs have won their last five Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures, four with maximum league points, since losing 30-34 at Harlequins on 29 February. That defeat was their first on the road in any competition since their loss at Bath in October.
Exeter has lost only one of their last eight meetings with Northampton in all competitions: 28-31 at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership Rugby in December 2018. The Chiefs have won just once at Northampton since 2014: 35-14 in December 2017.
Northampton: 15. George Furbank, 14. Ahsee Tuala, 13. Matt Proctor, 12. Rory Hutchinson, 11. Tom Collins, 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Henry Taylor, 8. Teimana Harrison (captain), 7. JJ Tonks, 6. Courtney Lawes, 5. Api Ratuniyarawa, 4. David Ribbans, 3. Owen Franks, 2. James Fish, 1. Francois van Wyk. Replacements: 16. Sam Matavesi, 17. Nick Auterac, 18. Paul Hill, 19. Nick Isiekwe, 20. Shaun Adendorff, 21. Alex Mitchell, 22. Piers Francis, 23. Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Exeter: 15. Josh Hodge, 14. Tom O’Flaherty, 13. Phil Dollman, 12. Tom Hendrickson, 11. Corey Baldwin, 10. Gareth Steenson, 9. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8. Don Armand, 7. Sean Lonsdale, 6. Jannes Kirsten, 5. Sam Skinner, 4. Dave Dennis, 3. Tomas Francis, 2. Jack Yeandle (captain), 1. Alec Hepburn. Replacements: 16. Jack Innard, 17. Billy Keast, 18. Alfie Petch, 19. Tom Price, 20. Richard Capstick, 21. Joe Snow, 22. Harvey Skinner, 23. Tom Wyatt.