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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 28th November|
|19:45||Bath vs Harlequins|
|Saturday 29th November|
|15:00||Leicester Tigers vs Wasps|
|16:30||Exeter vs Saracens|
|Sunday 30th November|
|13:00||London Irish vs Gloucester|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Northampton|
|15:15||Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks|
|Saturday 20th December|
|14:00||Sale vs Exeter|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Bath|
|15:00||Saracens vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Northampton vs Leicester|
|Sunday 21st December|
|14:00||Wasps vs London Irish|
|Friday 26th December|
|15:00||London Irish vs London Welsh|
|Saturday 27th December|
|14:00||Sale vs Leicester|
|15:00||Bath vs Exeter|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Saracens|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Wasps|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Northampton|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|15:00||Exeter vs Gloucester|
|15:00||Saracens vs London Irish|
|15:00||Leicester vs Bath|
|15:00||Northampton vs Newcastle|
|Sunday 4th January|
|14:00||Wasps vs Sale|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Harlequins|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:00||Sale vs Northampton|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|London Welsh 5 - 26 Leicester Tigers|
|Saracens 24 - 31 Northampton|
|Saturday 22nd November|
|London Irish 23 - 33 Bath|
|Exeter 31 - 15 Wasps|
|Friday 21st November|
|Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 Gloucester|
|Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale Sharks|
|Sunday 16th November|
|Wasps 71 - 7 London Welsh|
|Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 Saracens|
|Saturday 15th November|
|Bath 23 - 14 Newcastle Falcons|
|Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London Irish|
|Friday 14th November|
|Gloucester 15 - 22 Harlequins|
|Northampton 18 - 24 Exeter|
|Sunday 12th October|
|Wasps 29 - 22 Bath|
|Saturday 11th October|
|Northampton 43 - 10 Sale Sharks|
|Saracens 28 - 21 Gloucester|
|Exeter 44 - 24 London Irish|
|London Welsh 3 - 23 Newcastle|
|Friday 10th October|
|Leicester 22 - 16 Harlequins|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com