Premiership: Exeter Chiefs 21-10 Northampton Saints
|Exeter: (8) 21|
|Tries: Dollman, penalty try Cons: Slade Pens: Slade (3)|
|Northampton: (5) 10|
|Tries: Wilson, Elliott|
Exeter Chiefs moved back into the top four of the Premiership after beating leaders Northampton Saints for the second time this season.
Phil Dollman's try gave the home side early impetus, but James Wilson crashed over in the corner in reply.
A penalty try was awarded as the Chiefs pack drove towards the line soon after the break, converted by Henry Slade.
He also kicked three penalties and Jamie Elliott's late try for Saints was no more than a consolation.
The victory lifted the Chiefs back into the top four at Leicester's expense, with Northampton remaining six points clear at the top despite what was only their fourth league defeat of the campaign.
Exeter, who won 24-18 at Franklin's Gardens in November, had England's Jack Nowell back in their side at centre, with Dollman returning at full-back.
And after Slade had kicked an early 25-metre penalty, Dollman left the Northampton defence flat-footed with two dummies in a superb run to score the game's first touchdown.
Chiefs lock Dean Mumm was then sin-binned for collapsing a scrum, but Northampton failed to make their numerical advantage count while he was off the pitch, with wing Ken Pisi spilling a pass into touch as he headed for the line.
Dollman sprinted 70 yards to touch down for the second time, but the try was ruled out for a knock-on and it was the visitors who wrapped up the first-half scoring as Wilson got the ball down before being forced into touch by Matt Jess and Slade.
Trailing only 8-5 at the interval, Saints lost Stephen Myler temporarily - the second of three of their players sin-binned during the match - for a deliberate knock-on, which Slade punished with a penalty.
He then kicked a conversion after Exeter were awarded their penalty try.
Carl Rimmer came on as a Chiefs replacement for his 50th Premiership appearance before Slade extended their lead to 16 points with another kick.
They defended superbly as Saints rallied and by the time Elliott found a way through to the corner, it was too late for the visitors, with Myler missing the conversion attempt.
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter:
"It was all about collecting some important league points because everyone has been saying that we have had the toughest run-in for the last five or six games - which is probably true - but that makes for some great games.
"If you look at the first half, it was cat and mouse, but we probably didn't make the most of the conditions; mainly because we didn't force that scrum pressure into being a try.
"But I think that we grew as the game went on and we did do well in the forward exchanges - there is no getting away from that - and ultimately that pressure counts for a lot.
"The league positions don't lie. Look at Northampton and that shows that they have been the consistent achievers and performers over the season. We are back in fourth place and that is probably about right."
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder:
"There were parts of the performance that were pretty good, but we just lacked patience when we got into those really good attacking areas.
"A lot of credit to Exeter because they defended well and they took the opportunity to score that try in the first half really well.
"They put our set-piece - particularly our scrum - under some pressure. We'd talked about the quality of Exeter's scrum before the game. You can't under-estimate that because they are a big heavy pack.
"We know exactly where we are - three games to go and six points clear - so its still in our hands and we are looking forward to the challenge."
Exeter: Dollman; Whitten, Nowell, Hill, Jess; Slade, Chudley; Moon, Yeandle, Francis, Mumm (capt), Lees, Ewers, White, Waldrom.
Replacements: Rimmer for Moon (58), Taione for Yeandle (68), Brown for Francis (56), Lewis for Lees (76), Horstmann for White (25).
Not Used: Skinner, Steenson.
Sin Bin: Mumm (21).
Northampton: Wilson; Ken Pisi, George Pisi, Burrell, Elliott; Myler, Fotuali'i; Corbisiero, Hartley (capt), Denman, Manoa, Day, Wood, Clark, Dickinson.
Replacements: Tuala for Wilson (62), Stephenson for G Pisi (66), L Dickson for Fotuali'i (56), A Waller for Corbisiero (47), Haywood for Hartley (62), Mercey for Denman (47), Dowson for Manoa (72), Fisher for S Dickinson (55).
Sin Bin: Clark (35), Myler (42), A. Waller (51).
Referee: Wayne Barnes