Northampton 26 – 29 Exeter


Exeter Chiefs approached the home Premier League semi-final Gallagher after beating the Northampton Saints with 18 points; British and Irish lions, Dan Biggar and Sam Simmonds, both walked away with injuries

Last updated: 06/06/21 17:30

Ollie Devoto scored for Exeter's fourth attempt

Ollie Devoto scored for Exeter’s fourth attempt

Exeter destroyed the 18-point gap to beat Northampton 29-26 at Franklin’s Gardens and closed the home play-off.

The Saints played with 14 people more than an hour after the dismissal of David Ribbans.

And there were double injuries to the injuries of British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland, while Northampton international flyers from Wales Dan Biggar and Exeter No. 8 Sam Simmonds left during the second period.

Northampton provided as well as they got during a pulsating match in which the Chiefs prevailed by scoring four attempts in the second half after falling behind 18-0 at the break.

Dan Biggar (pictured) and fellow Lyon Sam Simmonds are forced to wound

Dan Biggar (pictured) and fellow Lyon Sam Simmonds are forced to wound

Their points triumph – their sixth consecutive Premiership win – means they need a point against rivals for the Sale Sharks title at Sandy Park next Saturday for the home semi-finals.

The odds are that Sale would then return to Devon in the playoffs a week later.

Exeter, who did not lead until the 75th minute, overcame attempts by Sam Skinner, Stuart Hogg, Stu Townsend and Ollie Devot, while skipper Joe Simmonds launched three conversions and a late penalty.

Ribbans was fired for direct shoulder contact with the head of Exeter whore Luke Cowan-Dickie, leaving Northampton a man for 66 minutes.

David Ribbans (left) was sent off in the 14th minute

David Ribbans (left) was sent off in the 14th minute

But they pushed Exeter all the way to Rory Hutchinson’s double attempt, Mike Haywood’s touchdown and 11 points from Biggar that included a drop-goal.

A crowd of 4,000 people roared at the Saints and had an afternoon to enjoy while both teams performed an exciting action.

The Saints flew out of the blocks, dominating the starting territory and possession before taking the lead in the seventh minute when Biggar’s short passes from close range sent Hutchinson.

Biggar redirected the conversion attempt widely, but the promising start of the Saints suffered great difficulty in just 14 minutes of competition when the Ribbans saw the red.

Saints center Rory Hutchinson scored two attempts in the first half

Saints center Rory Hutchinson scored two attempts in the first half

Judge Craig Maxwell-Keys reviewed several replays before swinging a red card, and any ban could affect Ribbans ’hopes of eventually making his debut in England in the Twickenham tests against the US and Canada next month.

The loss of such a key player did not worry Saints as Hutchinson opened Exeter for his second attempt just five minutes after Ribbans left, chasing his own shot and gathering, Biggar’s conversion increased to 12-0.

Exeter were able to make little progress against Northampton’s superbly organized defense, and the Saints remained the most dangerous in attack towards the end of the half they dominated.

Biggar, a great presence of his team, took a penalty in the 34th minute before adding a drop-goal and sending Northampton into the interval with an 18-point lead.

Exeter knew they had to score the first goal after half-time and it took him just over three minutes as constant pressure through their attackers ended in Skinner’s fall.

And the Saints returned behind their position just six minutes later, again proving incapable of withstanding Exeter’s savage pressure before center Ian Whitten found Hogg, who finished impressively and requested an attempt that Simmonds converted.

Suddenly everything was on deck for the hosts and although Biggar tackled them briefly, Townsend’s attempt and Simmonds ’conversion set up an intense final quarter.

Haywood rounded out the move to request Northampton’s attempt, but Biggar soon set off, and Exeter responded by pulling a level through the Devoto touchdown that Simmonds turned.

It was a breathless party, and Exeter finally repaired his hosts five minutes from time through penalties for the Simmonds who took the Chiefs home.


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