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Saints rule over Chiefs
Battling Exeter claim losing bonus point
Northampton clinched a 24-21 victory over Exeter in their Aviva Premiership clash at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday.
First half tries from Christian Day and Phil Dowson and scores after the break from Luther Burrell and Dylan Hartley proved too much, despite a valiant effort by the Chiefs.
Tries for visitors came through Phil Dollman and Matt Jess, who crossed in the final minute to secure a losing bonus point.
Exeter's Argentine fly-half Ignacio Mieres kicked 11 points, while opposite number Ryan Lamb had a poor afternoon with the boot, managing just a single conversion, with his replacement Stephen Myler adding another.
Lamb missed his first eight minutes in and moments later Mieres also shot wide when the hosts were penalised at the opposite end.
On 17 minutes though, Ben Foden jinked his way through the Chiefs defence with a superb run before releasing Vasily Artemyev, who was brought down just short. But lock Day was on hand to take the ball and crash over for the try.
Lamb missed the sticks again and things got no better for Mieres when he too failed with his second kickable shot at goal on the 25 minute mark.
But the second try came within a minute when Lamb ripped open the Exeter defence with a surging run up the right.
Saints switched play to the left from the breakdown and great work from Hartley and Foden left took the ball right to the Chiefs' line for Dowson to pick up and dive over.
Lamb hit the target this time to make it 12-0 but, despite Northampton looking dominant, the visitors turned on the style to hit right back with a magnificent try.
Winger Tatupu started things from inside his own half when he cut inside, leaving Artemeyev for dead, and charged deep into Exeter territory before releasing Dollman.
Dollman bamboozled Lamb in similar fashion and sprinted in under the posts to complete a suberb score just before the half hour mark.
This time Mieres was on target with the conversion to make it 12-7 and six minutes later he closed the gap to two points with a penalty.
The Argentine fly-half seemed to be over his early nerves and, two minutes later when Gerrit-Jan Van Velze was sin-binned for a spear tackle on scrum half, Will Chudley he put his side in front for the first time.
Northampton had to start the second half a man down for a further seven minutes, but the visitors were unable to break through a resolute defence.
Mieres was able to extend Exeter's lead to four on 51 minutes, though, with a penalty from in front, mid-way between the Saints 22 and the halfway line.
But just four minutes later Saints wrested back the lead when Burrell opened up the Chiefs defence with an exquisite dummy and burst through the gap to score.
Myler, who had come on for Lamb, missed with his first attempt at goal leaving his side in front by a single point at 17-16.
Saints clinched the bonus point with 18 minutes to go, when Hartley drove over from an attacking lineout after electing to go for touch when Exeter were pinged at a maul inside their own 22.
Myler slotted the conversion to make it 24-16 and leave the Chiefs needing two scores to win the game.
Myler missed a chance to extend the lead and, with two minutes left, Saints were reduced to 14 when replacement Rhys Oakley was sin-binned.
Exeter were quick to capitalise and winger Jess went over with a minute to go to grab a losing bonus point but Mieres missed the conversion and the game closed out.
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Aviva Premiership Table
|Friday 5th September|
|19:45||Northampton vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 6th September|
|14:00||Sale vs Bath|
|14:00||Saracens vs Wasps|
|15:00||Leicester vs Newcastle|
|16:30||London Irish vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 7th September|
|14:00||London Welsh vs Exeter|
|Friday 12th September|
|19:45||Harlequins vs Saracens|
|Saturday 13th September|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Sale|
|15:00||Bath vs London Welsh|
|15:15||Exeter vs Leicester|
|Sunday 14th September|
|14:00||Wasps vs Northampton|
|15:00||Newcastle vs London Irish|
|Friday 19th September|
|19:45||Gloucester vs Exeter|
|Saturday 20th September|
|14:00||Sale vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Wasps|
|15:00||London Irish vs Saracens|
|15:15||Bath vs Leicester|
|Sunday 21st September|
|14:00||Newcastle vs Northampton|
|Friday 26th September|
|19:45||London Welsh vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 27th September|
|15:00||Leicester vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Sale|
|15:15||Northampton vs Bath|
|Sunday 28th September|
|14:00||Wasps vs Newcastle|
|14:00||Exeter vs Harlequins|
|Friday 3rd October|
|19:45||Bath vs Saracens|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com