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Summary

  1. Northampton beat Exeter 8-3
  2. Haywood touches down for Saints
  3. Second defeat of season for Chiefs
  4. Northampton close gap on top four to two points

Live Reporting

By Andrew Aloia

All times stated are UK

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Wrapping it up

FT: Northampton 8-3 Exeter

Northampton grind out the win and an important one at that for a side that was rocked by a Boxing Day loss the previously winless London Irish.

A losing bonus-point from their trip to Franklin's Gardens moves Exeter to within a point of Premiership leaders Saracens.

That is all from us today, but remember there is a plenty more to come over the weekend with four matches on Saturday, headlined by Leicester's trip to Sarries, then Worcester host Harlequins on Sunday.

Full-time

Northampton 8-3 Exeter

Fitting passage of play at last at Franklin's Gardens. A poor clearance by Northampton and Exeter are gifted what looked like a final shot of hijacking something from the game.

Impatiently, the ball is shifted wide and out of play.

Northampton get the win, Exeter suffer Premiership defeat for the first time since the opening day of the season.

Northampton 8-3 Exeter

It is scrappy and bodies are slipping all over the place as Exeter go in search of a breakthrough in the final minute.

Northampton 8-3 Exeter

That penalty keeps an astonishing statistic alive for Exeter, as they have never failed to score in a Premiership game. 

Their lowest-ever points total in a match in the Premiership was at Franklin's Gardens when they lost 33-3 to Northampton on 9 Oct, 2011. 

As it stands they have a losing bonus-point in sight, but can they press for so much more in the final few minutes here?

Penalty (Steenson)

Northampton 8-3 Exeter

Jack Nowell demanding more of the ball for Exeter and the visitors are stringing a series of phases together.

At the end of it, Gareth Steenson lands a penalty. Exeter are on the board.

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

In a flash it seems, George North takes possession out wide and Exeter are scrambling in defence. 

The penalty goes to the corner, but Exeter survive, Saints losing the ball into touch and from the resulting line-out Gareth Steenson eventually manages to clear.

With just over 10 minutes remaining, there is still signs of life in this game. No matter how drab it has been.

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

Whatever energy there was in this match at the start of the second half has been ground into submission.

Exeter make another foray into the 22, but George Pisi tramples on the Chiefs' prospects of producing a moment of note. He races out quick and makes a crunching tackle on replacement Will Hooley.

Chance gone. But something to write about nonetheless.

Jamie Gibson
Getty Images

Lennie Newman

Former Northampton Saints player and manager

Conditions have made it difficult. We keep saying it, but Saints have had an edge with Tom Collins, Luther Burrell has played nicely, but George North has been very quiet."

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

Looking for a boost? Why not change it up?

And the entire front row for Exeter is shuffled with Ben Moon off for Carl Rimmer, Thomas Francis replaced by Moray Low and captain Jack Yeandle makes way from Elvis Taione.

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

Handling errors have blighted this game. 

Exeter the latest to be frustrated in the greasy conditions. Ben Moon spilling the ball, attack is transformed into a scrum, which it seems inevitably turns into a penalty.

Northampton relieve themselves of pressure without having to do much of note there.

Ian Hunter

Former Northampton Saints and England wing on 5 Live sports extra

I just like the way Tom Collins moves with the ball. His first intent is to run. If there's nothing on, he's intelligent enough to put the ball up and chase it. He's the pick of the backs at the moment."

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

A modern-day record attendance at Franklin's Gardens is confirmed with 15,430 coming out for the New Year's Day contest.

The Saints faithful are getting vocal now, not that there has been a lot to cheer in the opening 55 minutes.

Nothampton 8-0 Exeter

Thomas Waldrom
Getty Images

Don Armand quickest to the ball from one a inventive, quick Thomas Waldrom kick. Crucial gather and Exeter settle with the ball five metres out.

However, with the ball breaking loose it is Saints hooker Mike Haywood who clears with a nicely hacked kick into touch. 

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

Exeter carve out the first genuine chance of the game for themselves. But not a moment of panic from Northampton.

Pinned on their try line, Christian Day comes up with the ball and composed as you like finds Tom Collins who kicks clear.

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

First sight of Thomas Waldrom in the second half (and one of very few all game) and the number 8 for Exeter and is caught offside from the breakdown.

Waldrom, the battering ram that helped inspire Exeter to their first ever win at Franklin's Gardens in November 2014 and who has been so influential this season, has been suffocated out of this one so far.

Get Involved at #bbcrugby

#bbcrugby Not many points, but a good strong stance so far. Glad to have this great sport to get the new year underway :) :)

Kick-off

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

And action resumes as Franklin's Gardens with JJ Hanrahan kicking off.

HT: Northampton 8-0 Exeter

It hasn't been pretty and far from clinical from Northampton. But they have the lead.

For a side that sits fifth and smarting from their Boxing Day defeat to London Irish, being ahead in-front of a packed crowd at Franklin's Gardens against high-flying Exeter is a positive worth taking.

However, it must be said that Jim Mallinder will demand more from his Saints sides if they are to get the better of the Chiefs this afternoon.

Jim Mallinder
Getty Images

Plenty more to come

Premiership fixtures
BBC Sport

The year's first Premiership action is just getting started, with four of the remaining five matches of this round of fixtures coming on Saturday.

The headline fixture sees leaders Saracens hosts third-placed Leicester at 15:15 GMT.

Sunday's only game sees Harlequins travel to Worcester.

Of course, you can follow all the action right here on the BBC sport website as we bring live text commentaries across the weekend.

HT: Northampton 8-0 Exeter

Ian Hunter's thoughts are certainly shared by the Chiefs' social media team!

It was pretty much one way traffic in that first half. Chiefs will not be too disappointed to be only 8 points down.

HT: Northampton 8-0 Exeter

Ian Hunter

Former Northampton Saints and England wing on 5 Live sports extra

Saints probably could and probably should be further ahead. Having said that, Saints have put some intent on the game and taken Exeter up front. They've been exceptional against a very strong Exeter pack."

Half-time

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

Northampton dominate the opening 40 minutes, but only have a Mike Haywood try and JJ Hanrahan penalty to show for it. 

Exeter producing little in the way of attacking rugby, but have defended doggedly. And they have needed to as their penalty count has put them under a lot of unnecessary pressure at times.

Lennie Newman

Former Northampton Saints player and manager

We haven't heard Thomas Waldrom's name mentioned once because he hasn't had the ball."

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

Scrum. Reset. Penalty. Line-out. Pressure. Exeter survive.

The Chiefs are parked deep in defence, but refuse to be breached.

Tom Collins gets caught up in the moment and attempts to give Saints the hurry on with a chip kick over the top. This time, however. it is a poor from the winger and Northampton have nothing to show from their efforts once again.

Lennie Newman

Former Northampton Saints player and manager

Tom Collins has been my player of the half so far. Saints are ticking along nicely."

Penalty (Hanrahan)

Northampton 8-0 Exeter

Northampton opt to tee up the points and punish Exeter for offside. 

It is one penalty too many from the visitors and from well within kicking distance, JJ Hanrahan slots it over and gives Saints the very least of what they deserve.

Northampton 5-0 Exeter

Rare period of Exeter dominance sees the Chiefs move the ball calmly across field and back again looking for a weakness in Northampton's defence. 

However, it all comes undone as the visitors try and press their case a little too hard and the ball is spilled. Better from Exeter, but yet to truly test Saints.

Thomas Waldrom
Getty Images

Northampton 5-0 Exeter

A setback for Northampton as Kahn Fotuali'i limps off with what looks like a hamstring injury. The Samoan looked dangerous more than once with his pace. On comes Lee Dickson.

Northampton 5-0 Exeter

Ben Foden makes something out of nothing, running on to meet a high ball over the top.

The break is on as the ball spills for Saints and in a flash they are pressing for the try-line. Eventually, the attack fizzles out, but the warning was clear from the hosts as they press forward in waves.

JJ Hanrahan
Getty Images

Ian Hunter

Former Northampton Saints and England wing

Exeter put a huge amount of weight on and basically they just broke away. The momentum got in behind them and they scored."

Try (Haywood, missed con Hanrahan)

Northampton 5-0 Exeter

Northampton, camped in the right corner and heaping pressure on Exeter's defence until they finally broke.

And it is from the line out that they get the break, Mike Haywood the man that eventually crashes over.

Conversion from out wide comes off the post from JJ Hanrahan.

Northampton 0-0 Exeter

Kahn Fotuali'i
Getty Images

Plenty of territory and repeat phases for Saints in their attacking half. Must be said that they have failed to make the most of their possession in the opening 15 minutes.

Poor handling has been the hosts' undoing more than once, but Exeter's defence has been stubborn. Their scrum, however, is being overrun and allows Saints to pin Exeter onto their own try-line.

Northampton 0-0 Exeter

Early penalties allowing both sides to kick themselves into good field position. And with ball in hand, neither outfit looking shy about moving it through hands.

Victor Matfield leaves the field with a bloodied nose for Northampton, allowing Christian Day to join the action. He comes into a game that has started at a high tempo with Saints back on the attack, but Exeter are holding strong.

Lennie Newman

Former Northampton Saints player and manager

As we thought the packs have been trying to get that domination. There's looked more creativity in the Saints' backs than Exeter."

Northampton 0-0 Exeter

These two sides muscling up in a big way, the power generated early on at the scrum is enough to generate roars of appreciation from the the Northampton fans as Exeter's Ben Moon goes down in the scrum.

A long kick down field and a neat grubber kick through see Saints go over and Tom Collins dots down, but it is no try as there is a forward pass.

Form guide

Northampton 0-0 Exeter

Northampton v Exeter form
BBC Sport

Two sides with a very different run of form just getting a feel for one another in the early minutes on a biting cold day at Franklin's Gardens.

Northampton's inconsistent start to the season took on somewhat of a dismal tone on Boxing Day when they were overcome by the previously winless London Irish. If you were to look further into their form in December, they have failed to generate any momentum in the European Champions Cup, having managed a draw against Racing Metro at home after being well beaten by the French side in the away tie.

Conversely, Exeter have dropped just two possible league points in a run of six straight wins since losing at Bath on the opening day of the delayed 2015-16 season in mid-October.

A win today takes them top for 24 hours at least as leaders Saracens host Leicester on Saturday.

Kick-off

Northampton 0-0 Exeter

Exeter get the action underway.

Northampton in their traditional black, green and gold, while Exeter are in all white.

Get Involved

#bbcrugby

Fancy Northampton getting back to their more formidable ways with a win to start 2016? Or maybe the rise-and-rise of Exeter has captured your imagination, and you are busting at the seams to tell the twitterverse all about it.

While many will be getting caught up in the hype of what the new year will bring, we have just waved farewell to what was a huge 2015 of rugby union. What were your highlights, or if you are an England rugby fan, the lowlight?

Get in touch with us using #bbcrugby to share your thoughts.

Team news

Northampton v Exeter (15:00 GMT)

Exeter line-up
BBC Sport

Replacements: Taione, Rimmer, Low, Atkins, White, Lewis, Hooley, Short.  

Big team news out of Exeter for this one sees Italy international Michele Campagnaro make his first Premiership start in the centre.

Having been impressive off the bench in the 33-17 Boxing Day home win over Sale, he comes in alongside Ian Whitten, while winger Olly Woodburn gets the nod ahead of James Short, who drops to the bench.

Also, Exeter recall England's Tom Johnson to replace Julian Salvi at open-side flanker, with Ben White on the bench.

Team news

Northampton v Exeter (15:00 GMT)

Northampton line-up
BBC Sport

Replacements: Hartley, E Waller, Denman, Day, Paterson, Dickson, Myler, Mallinder.

Northampton make six changes for the visit of Exeter after going down to London Irish earlier in the week.

Tom Collins and JJ Hanrahan come into the back line following the boxing day loss to the previously winless Irish side, while Alex Waller, Mikey Haywood, Victor Matfield and Sam Dickinson are all recalled in the pack.