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Aviva Premiership: Jim Mallinder delighted after Northampton's win at Exeter
We could have easily lost this game but we stuck at it and I am really pleased with the belief of the side.
Quotes of the week
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder savoured the 17-16 victory over Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park that took his side to the top of the Aviva Premiership.
Saracens losing to London Irish earlier in the day opened the door for Northampton, who had a slender 10-9 lead at the break through a try from lock James Wilson and Samu Manoa, with the Chiefs replying as Gareth Steenson, with the wind at his back, landed three penalties.
Exeter dominated the early stages of the second half and scrum-half Dave Lewis crossed for Chiefs' only try, converted by Steenson, before a late try from George Pisi, converted by fly-half Stephen Myler, saw the Saints seal the victory.
"It was a very hard-fought win in difficult conditions," said Mallinder. "We were pretty pleased with ourselves at half-time having played into a gale and scoring two good tries.
"Any win away from home is a good win. Exeter are a good side and they will beat a lot of good sides here as well.
"I think that we probably let Exeter back into the game in the second half and a lot of credit to them because they played some good rugby in those conditions which put us under pressure.
"To score the winning try with a couple of minutes to go was outstanding. We knew that we would have to play for 80 minutes to match Exeter and we trusted our defence.
"We could have easily lost this game but we stuck at it and I am really pleased with the belief of the side. We are in a good place at the moment, internationals doing well for England and Wales and then the lads back at home."
Northampton are also through to the semi-finals of the LV= Cup where they will host Saracens next month, plus the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup where they have a trip to Sale Sharks in April.
Mallinder added: "This is where we want to be and I think any team wouldn't want to be out of competitions as it is only February. There is still a lot of rugby to go and we haven't got the biggest of squads so we have to look after and manage the players.
"We have always said that we can't worry too much about other people but of course you do look at results and see what is going on with Saracens losing. But the pressure comes back on with Bath winning and they are creeping back towards you."
Exeter had to settle for a losing bonus point to leave them eighth in the table, with matches to come at home to Bath, away to Saracens and then London Irish before an LV= Cup semi-final at Bath.
Head coach Rob Baxter said: "I'm a bit frustrated because ultimately I don't think that we played very well particularly in the first half.
"I don't think that we were really as physically aggressive as you need to be when you play a side like Northampton.
"We look back [on the game] and most of it will be okay for 90 per cent but there are too many of those odd things that are hurting us when we need to be well focused and need to be really decisive about what we do.
"I told the guys that we have let one slip through our fingers because if we had played in the first half anything like we did in the second we would not have been behind and we wouldn't have conceded the points that we did."
|Friday 13th February|
|19:45||Leicester vs Gloucester|
|19:45||Northampton vs London Irish|
|Saturday 14th February|
|16:30||Exeter vs Newcastle|
|Sunday 15th February|
|13:00||Saracens vs Bath|
|14:00||Wasps vs Harlequins|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Sale|
|Friday 20th February|
|19:45||Newcastle vs Wasps|
|Saturday 21st February|
|14:00||Sale vs Saracens|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Exeter|
|15:00||Gloucester vs London Welsh|
|15:15||Bath vs Northampton|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|14:00||London Irish vs Leicester|
|Friday 27th February|
|19:45||Leicester vs Sale|
|19:45||Northampton vs Harlequins|
|Saturday 28th February|
|14:30||London Welsh vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Newcastle|
|15:15||Exeter vs Bath|
|Sunday 1st March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Gloucester|
|Friday 6th March|
|19:45||Bath vs Sale|
|Saturday 7th March|
|15:00||Exeter vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs London Irish|
|15:15||Gloucester vs Northampton|
|Sunday 8th March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Saracens|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Leicester|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:45||Northampton vs Wasps|
|Sunday 11th January|
|London Irish 28 - 26 Exeter|
|Newcastle 38 - 7 London Welsh|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Harlequins 32 - 12 Leicester|
|Bath 39 - 26 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 20 - 7 Northampton|
|Friday 9th January|
|Gloucester 24 - 23 Saracens|
|Sunday 4th January|
|London Welsh 13 - 24 Harlequins|
|Wasps 41 - 16 Sale Sharks|
|Leicester 17 - 8 Bath|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|Exeter 25 - 26 Gloucester|
|Saracens 22 - 6 London Irish|
|Friday 2nd January|
|Northampton 39 - 31 Newcastle|
|Sunday 28th December|
|Gloucester 23 - 30 Wasps|
|Saturday 27th December|
|Harlequins 25 - 30 Northampton|
|Newcastle 23 - 25 Saracens|
|Bath 31 - 14 Exeter|
|Sale Sharks 30 - 32 Leicester|
|Friday 26th December|
|London Irish 24 - 9 London Welsh|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Wasps 48 - 16 London Irish|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Gloucester 16 - 39 Bath|
|Northampton 23 - 19 Leicester|
|Saracens 78 - 7 London Welsh|
|Harlequins 15 - 7 Newcastle|
|Friday 19th December|
|Sale 18 - 11 Exeter|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com