Northampton end Exeter's unbeaten run
January 5, 2013
Northampton end Exeter's unbeaten run
Northampton Saints handed Exeter Chiefs their first home defeat of the Aviva Premiership season with a 30-19 victory in their clash at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Tries from Ken Pisi, Soane Tonga'uiha and Gerrit-Jan van Velze steered the visitors to victory and fourth place in the league, with Stephen Myler kicking three conversions and three penalties.
Exeter, who either side of Christmas narrowly lost at Gloucester and were then denied a home victory over Bath by a late converted penalty try, made just one change among their backs with Ian Whitten starting in the centre in place of Jason Shoemark.
In the pack Ben Moon started at loose-head prop with Neil Clark at hooker. Dean Mumm switched to the second row and was joined by James Hanks while Tom Johnson and Ben White made up the back row with skipper for the day Richard Baxter at number eight.
The Saints, who went into the game one point above Exeter, named an unchanged back division while Tonga'uiha came in at loosehead prop, Paul Doran Jones at tighthead, Mark Sorenson at lock and Calum Clark at blindside flanker.
Both sides committed unforced errors in the opening minutes but 10 minutes into the game fullback Luke Arscott found a gap on his 30-metre break and then passed outside to wing Matt Jess who was taken to ground just outside the Saints 22.
Exeter were rewarded for their possession advantage and when flanker Phil Dowson was penalised at the breakdown and fly-half Gareth Steenson drilled the penalty kick through the uprights to put the home side in front.
But Northampton hit back as Arscott's poor kick from deep was collected by fly-half Myler who put full-back Ben Foden away on the counter-attack and he slipped past his opposite number before offloading to wing Pisi.
The Samoan international jinked to avoid centre Phil Dollman's try-saving tackle attempt to touch down behind the posts. Myler added the simple extras and then added a long-range penalty on the half hour.
Northampton's Phil Dowson takes the attack to Exeter at Sandy Park © Getty Images
The fly-half, who saw his next attempt hit the upright, then added a second penalty from out wide on the left. Exeter reduced the arrears as Steenson added a penalty after England hooker Dylan Hartley was sent to the sin bin as his side led 13-6 at the break.
Exeter started the second half looking to take advantage of the extra man against a seven-man scrum which they wheeled, allowing Steenson to reduce the deficit further with his third penalty.
Myler cancelled that out with a 38-metre kick before Arscott was stopped short, but the home side cut the arrears to four points with Steenson's fourth penalty just before the Saints were restored to full strength with Hartley back on the field.
Exeter were then forced to defend their line and when the Saints were awarded a penalty close to the line they opted to kick to touch. From the line-out and resultant drive Tonga'uiha got the touchdown and Myler converted.
The Saints line was put under pressure, and with the referee playing advantage replacement centre Sireli Naqelevuki powered over for a Chiefs try which replacement fly-half Ignacio Mieres converted.
Northampton, from another catch and drive, crossed for their third try after referee Greg Garner referred the matter to TMO Geoff Warren, with No.8 Van Velze getting the touchdown and Myler adding the touchline conversion.
Saints' director of rugby Jim Mallinder welcomed his side's morale-boosting win. "We have had some cracking wins away - we have won down here, we have won at Gloucester and at Bath as well as away at Ulster," he said, "but what we need to do is get back our home form so next week [Heineken Cup] will be a good test.
"It is always tough to come to Exeter and they have a very good record, and quite rightly so," he added. "They are a good team and they test your defence, put you under pressure by playing a lot but I thought our defence was really good. We were up for it and we took our opportunities well."
Chiefs boss Rob Baxter commented: Exeter head coach Rob Baxter said: "I don't think we were far off winning the game. It wouldn't have taken any more physical endeavour from us, it would have just taken a little more mental sharpness and a little better control of certain parts of the game.
"We were the team that was playing and being able to control possession for periods but we almost played until we made the error. What we are striving for is being able to flick that switch from being that team that wants to attack, wants to be ambitious, hunting to keep possession and breakdown the opposition but also looks up and sees that there is a decision to be made and makes the right one. That has always been the battle for us since we came in to the Premiership.
Exeter's Luke Arscott proves elusive during his side's clash with Northampton © Getty Images
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