Exeter celebrated their 10-year anniversary In the Premiership by reinforcing their position of dominance at the top of the table – and condemning Northampton to a sixth consecutive home defeat.
For the Saints, this is the now a record sequence of league results at Franklin’s Gardens and all but ends their fading title hopes. For Exeter, another emphatic demonstration of squad depth saw their reserve line-up claim another major scalp on the road, following the epic victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate 10 days earlier.
Rob Baxter’s imperious Chiefs thus marked a club landmark In fitting fashion. Exactly a decade after beating Gloucester In their first ever Premiership fixture, the Devonians won In the East Midlands with a team featuring two veteran survivors from 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 condemned the Northampton Saints to a sixth-straight home defeat
It wasn’t long before there was more writing on Northampton’s walls, as the fluent visitors claimed a double-digit lead. In the seventh minute, Exeter surged In front with a sweeping, long-range try.
Tom O’Flaherty made good ground on the right and after Tomas Francis crashed on, Sean Lonsdale was released through a gap and he barged past George Furbank’s attempted tackle to touch down.
Steenson converted and was heavily involved In the Chiefs’ next try five minutes later. The fly-half’s inside pass allowed outstanding Exeter blindside Jannes Kirsten to gallop through the splintered Northampton ranks and clear to the posts, with Steenson adding the extras.
Exeter celebrated their 10-year anniversary In style with victory, continuing their dominance
The hosts appeared In danger of capitulating but, to their credit, they rallied. A multi-phase, route-one onslaught paved the way for David Ribbans to smash over, for a try converted by Dan Biggar.
Then, a minute before the break, Biggar’s pass put James Fish In space and the hooker sent scrum-half Henry Taylor off to the line, to make it 12-14.
Three minutes after half-time, Rory Hutchinson’s break carved Exeter open, Biggar maintained the momentum and Ribbans bumped off England prop Alec Hepburn to touch down. Biggar’s extras made it 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 Steenson penalty reduced the deficit then, nine minutes from time, O’Flaherty darted over In the left corner. The match-winner said: ‘It was a good old-fashioned ding-dong.
No matter what team we put out, we go and enjoy it. We have to keep pushing forward.’ Asked if the play-offs are now out of reach for Northampton, a dejected Boyd said: ‘I think so. We’ve probably left ourselves too much to do.’