Exter 42-12 Northampton: Chiefs cruise past Saints to setup rematch with Saracens in Premiership final
- Exeter reached fourth successive Premiership final by beating Northampton
- Chiefs will seek to beat Sarries at the third attempt at Twickenham next week
- Eight of last 10 finals have featured one or both of the best two sides in England
You traipse around the country for eight months and 23 rounds of rugby and Exeter play Saracens in the Premiership final.
That is seemingly the way in this recent domestic era. Now it will be eight finals in the last 10 to feature either or both of the best two sides in England.
The Chiefs booked their trip to Twickenham in typically dominant fashion and now must try to beat Saracens in a final at the third attempt on Saturday.
Exeter wing Tom O’ Flaherty dives over to score his side’s fourth try against Northampton
Harry Williams, Joe Simmonds, Dave Dennis, Tom O’Flaherty, Sam Simmonds and Sam Hill were the men with the tries this time as the regular-season table-toppers completed their inexorable march to HQ for the fourth consecutive time.
But they were, at least, made to work for it in the first half. Northampton — who finished a full 30 points behind Exeter in the table — scored a penalty try and one from Ahsee Tuala but were inevitably overpowered and left pointless in the second half.
‘If we take the lead in the final against Saracens we’ll be fine then!’ joked Exeter’s chief Rob Baxter afterwards.
Matt Kvesic celebrates Exeter’s third try by Dave Dennis at Sandy Park on Saturday
It might not have ended up mattering, but a horrid drop from star No 9 Cobus Reinach when he was clean through before the break felt crucial.
Baxter, who brought this team up just nine summers ago, will now only be content with the trophy.‘It feels great to be in a final but it doesn’t feel amazing,’ he said. ‘It would feel amazing to win it because that’s something we have only experienced once. ‘It is only a big day if we win it. We are still a bit way off our optimum game.’
Never mind a game of two halves, the first 40 minutes here were a half of two halves. With 22 minutes played Northampton were doing everything you should not against Exeter and Chiefs everything you would expect them to.
Saints barely entered Exeter’s half, and never their 22 in the siege. They dropped the ball, turned it over, conceded scrum penalties, but tackled hard. Most teams do for a while here — then the dam breaks.
Exeter fly-half Joe Simmonds celebrates scoring the second try against Northampton
Cruelly, the first time Northampton missed one tackle Exeter scored. Dave Ewers had been denied a try by the TMO when going short but then Williams — hair sprouting from his scrum-cap — bashed over, Joe Simmonds converted and Chiefs were underway. Tuala then badly dropped a box-kick, Exeter parked their wigwams in the Saints 22 again and scored a second.
Joe Simmonds jinked through a hole, scored and converted it. At this point Exeter had 80 per cent possession, 89 per cent territory and were 14-0 up. Night-night? Not yet. It took them 27 minutes to first visit the north end of Sandy Park but when Northampton finally found the Exeter 22 they scored.
Their first attempt — a rolling maul, with James Fish flopping for the line — was in vain as the hooker dropped the ball in the act of scoring. But TMO Rowan Kitt saw wing O’Flaherty coming in at the side so sent him to the sin-bin and awarded Saints a fairly questionable penalty try.
It spurred on the Saints. Dan Biggar — transformed in attack by his Kiwi boss Chris Boyd this year — picked out the hulking Taqele Naiyaravoro with a cross-kick on the left. Henry Slade managed to haul him down, but then Northampton went right.
Chiefs wing Jack Nowell loses possession after making a break through the Saints defence
Rory Hutchinson was flung a wide pass just about in reach. The 23-year-old centre juggled, and before falling over flicked a stupendous offload to Tuala who scored. Biggar’s second conversion was wide but suddenly it was 14-12.
However, the Saints’ halo slipped right on half-time. More heavenly stuff from Hutchinson saw him dance through a tiny gap, he fed the rapid Reinach who for all the world was in under the posts, but the South African inexplicably dropped the pass. It was to be a seminal sitter to shell. For quickly after the break Exeter regained control of the bulldozer and Dennis smashed over. Simmonds converted.
O’Flaherty went racing across the Devon countryside for a mazy score. Sam Simmonds, on his second match since his return from a knee injury, scored a fifth and Hill a sixth. Joe Simmonds converted all three to take himself to 17 points for the match.
‘Oooh, aaah we are Exeter’ chanted the partisan crowd, but will they be champions? Beating the best side in Europe will be a whole lot tougher than this.
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