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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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|Saturday 7th March|
|15:15||Gloucester vs Northampton|
|Saturday 14th March|
|12:30||Saracens vs Northampton|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:45||Northampton vs Wasps|
|Saturday 4th April|
|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|17:40||Clermont Auvergne vs Northampton|
|Sunday 12th April|
|14:00||Exeter vs Northampton|
|Saturday 25th April|
|15:00||Northampton vs Saracens|
|Saturday 9th May|
|15:00||Northampton vs London Welsh|
|Saturday 16th May|
|15:30||Leicester vs Northampton|
|Friday 27th February|
|Northampton 17 - 13 Harlequins|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Bath 13 - 21 Northampton|
|Friday 13th February|
|Northampton 15 - 9 London Irish|
|Saturday 7th February|
|Northampton 29 - 6 Wasps|
|Saturday 31st January|
|Leicester 17 - 8 Northampton|
|Saturday 24th January|
|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|Northampton 8 - 32 Racing Metro 92|
|Sunday 18th January|
|Ospreys 9 - 20 Northampton|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com