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Exeter Chiefs moved above Saracens and into first place in the Aviva Premiership standings by beating Northampton 20-12 at Sandy Park.
Northampton Saints outscored Exeter by two tries to one but Exeter won the match through Gareth Steenson’s boot as he kicked five penaltis.
The first half was dominated by the hads of the Northampton players who put the Chiefs to the sword with impressive fluency in attack.
Tries from Lee Dickson and Ken Pisi saw the visitors into a comfortable 3-12 lead at the break.
Every point in the second half was scored by the resurgent hosts. A try from Olly Woodburn added to a succession of Gareth Steenson penalties assured victory for the home side, seeing off the Saints challenge.
The win sees the Chiefs reach the summit of the Aviva Premiership ahead of Saracens’ trip to Leicester. They now look favourites to secure a home semi-final in the play-offs.
Meanwhile, Saints’ failure to take anything from the match means a huge blow to their hopes of a home semi-final but they remain in fourth in the table ahead of Leicester.
Exeter started the match brightly and were rewarded for their early pressure when Steenson gave his side the lead from the tee in the 12th minute.
In the 14th minute, Lee Dickson scored a try to give Saints the advantage. A true scrum-half’’s try from the captain, spotting a gap and sniping over the line from a metre out to make the score 3-5.
The visitors went further ahead in the 34th minute, Ken Pisi found himself on the end of an excellent move to score a try. JJ Hanrahan added the extras to stretch the lead to nine points.
Saints’’ Mike Haywood was sent to the sin-bin in the 49th minute for having hands in the ruck. Just three minutes later the hosts capitalised on the man-advantage, Woodburn crossing in the corner to close the gap to just four points.
Steenson was on target for the hosts with a penalty in the 57th minute to take the score to 11-12.
By the 69th minute momentum was with the Chiefs and they were awarded a penalty for Northampton hands in the ruck. Steenson knocked it over for Northampton to lead for the first time in the second half.
This lead was added to three minutes later with the Irishman Steenson knocking yet another penalty home from in front of the posts for a 17-12 lead.
A Chiefs victory was assured in the 78th minute with yet another Steenson penalty to make the final score 20-12 denying Saints a bonus point.
Final Score Exeter 20 (3) Northampton 12 (12)
Tries – Woodburn
Pen – Steenson (5)
Tries – Dickson, K Pisi
Con – Hanrahan
Referee : Greg Garner (95th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Tom Foley & Andrew Pearce.
TMO: Geoff Warren.
15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (capt),1 Ben Moon
Replacments : 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Carl Rimmer, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Julian Salvi, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Lachie Turner
15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 Ahsee Tuala, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Lee Dickson (capt), 8 Jonathan Fisher, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Teimana Harrison, 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacments : 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 James Wilson
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