Exeter 42-12 Northampton: Chiefs seal fourth successive Premiership final place
Exeter will now face Saracens in the 2018/19 Premiership final
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 25/05/19 7:12pm
A six-try Exeter Chiefs performance against the Northampton Saints ensured Rob Baxter's men will compete in a fourth successive Premiership final after a 42-12 semi-final win.
First-half scores from prop Harry Williams and out-half Joe Simmonds put Exeter 14-0 ahead, but the Saints hit back via a penalty try and Ahsee Tuala score, leaving the half-time score at 14-12.
Second half tries from lock Dave Dennis, wing Tom O'Flaherty, and replacements Sam Simmonds and Sam Hill ensured there would be no Northampton recovery.
Exeter will now face Saracens in the 2018/19 Premiership final at Twickenham next Saturday, with a 3pm kick-off.
On 11 minutes, Northampton tighthead Ehren Painter was penalised at scrum time, with Henry Slade kicking to the corner instead of opting for a shot at points. Northampton scrum-half Cobus Reinach made a try-saving tackle on Dave Ewers in the ensuing play before Saints won a scrum penalty against the head to complete an exit.
Four minutes later, Teimana Harrison was pinged at the breakdown, after-which Slade again turned down points for kick to the corner. Again, Northampton's defence held strong in the first instance, but a five-metre attacking scrum for the Chiefs would see the first points of the day.
A strong carry from Exeter inside-centre Ollie Devoto off the set-piece put the Chiefs on top of the Saints tryline, from which tighthead prop Williams illustrated his strength to ride a challenge and barrel over.
Simmonds jinked over for Exeter's second score on 21 minutes, again after the Chiefs turned down a possible shot at the posts with Saints pinged for offside.
Saints looked to have registered their first try on 20 minutes via hooker James Fish, though on review with the TMO, it was ruled out for a loss of control. Northampton needn't have worried though, as the play was called back for foul play by Exeter wing O'Flaherty - coming in at the side to break up that maul romping over the line. The decision by referee Carley was a penalty try and yellow card.
Less than two minutes later and Saints were over again after a magnificent team move. A Tom Collins high take and offload to Tuala started it before another Collins offload to Hutchinson - who then produced a sumptuous reverse offload while falling - for Tuala saw the full-back take and score.
Dan Biggar missed a seemingly simple drop goal attempt for the lead with the half coming to a close, before Reinach of all people - Northampton's player of the season - knocked on with the tryline at his mercy after a scintillating Hutchinson break.
Five minutes into the second half, Exeter got back on top of the semi-final when lock Dennis dived over following another series of close-range phases, stretching the lead to 21-12.
Just two minutes later, O'Flaherty then increased the decibel levels at Sandy Park when he picked a line to carve the Saints defence apart and sear over. Simmonds' conversion gave the Chiefs a healthy 28-12 lead.
From there, Exeter never looked back with replacements Simmonds and Hill notching tries with 10 minutes remaining and in dead time at the end of the semi-final respectively.