Premiership: Exeter Chiefs score eight tries to beat Northampton

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport at Sandy Park
Exeter centre Tom Hendrickson scores his first of two tries
Tom Hendrickson's first try secured the bonus point for Exeter
Gallagher Premiership
Exeter Chiefs (22) 57
Tries: Hendrickson 2, Hill, Taione, Kirsten, Moon, O'Flaherty, S Simmonds Cons: J Simmonds 5, Steenson 2 Pen: J Simmonds
Northampton Saints (0) 7
Try: Grayson Con: Grayson

Exeter highlighted their domination of this season's Premiership by scoring eight tries to thrash Northampton.

Three tries in the final 10 minutes of the first half saw Jonny Hill, Elvis Taione and Jannes Kirsten go over.

Tom Hendrickson then secured the bonus point early in the second period before Ben Moon crossed to make it 36-0.

Hendrickson got his second soon after before James Grayson got a consolation for Saints, but Tom O'Flaherty and Sam Simmonds added more scores late on.

The win was the joint third-highest points total Exeter have scored in a Premiership match.

Rob Baxter's side go eight points clear of Sale, whose Friday night 36-3 win over Leicester leaves them one ahead of Bristol, who beat Worcester, and Northampton, who have now dropped to fourth.

Saints were forced to shuffle their backs late on after full-back Harry Mallinder suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up to further add to Saints' long list of absentees, in addition to the internationals both teams were missing due to the Six Nations.

Despite dominating the possession, Exeter only had Joe Simmonds' 10th-minute penalty to show for their efforts for most of the first period as Northampton's forwards matched their hosts' power.

But Saints were hit by a sucker punch for the opening try as Chiefs moved the length of the field in a handful of phases.

Tom O'Flaherty's mazy run from inside his own five-metre line to the mid-point of his own half allowed Exeter to break, and after the bounce from Nic White's kick deceived Tom Collins, Hill was on hand to power over from close range.

It got worse for Collins soon after as he was sin-binned for illegally trying to stop White from passing close to Saints' line, and from the resulting penalty Exeter forced Taione over in trademark Chiefs style before Kirsten followed in a similar vein with the final play of the first half.

Sam Simmonds scores Exeter's eighth try
Sam Simmonds went over for Exeter's eighth and final try on a dominant afternoon

Northampton changed their front row at half-time as experienced trio Mike Haywood, Owen Franks and Alex Waller all took to the field, but they had no answer to Exeter's ruthless attack as they blew Saints away with three more tries in a 10-minute period.

Hendrickson latched on to Ian Whitten's pass and scythed through the defence, Moon blasted through from 10 metres out and Hendrickson forced his way over from five metres after Exeter had been held up over the Northampton line.

As both benches emptied, Grayson got an easy score after a rare Northampton foray into Exeter's 22, but straight after O'Flaherty was sent through by Don Armand as the hosts racked up a half century of points.

It got worse for Northampton in the dying moments when Sam Skinner intercepted a pass and popped the ball to Simmonds, who went in under the posts as Exeter recorded their biggest home win since their all-time top flight record victory - a 74-19 thumping of London Welsh almost five years ago.

Exeter head coach Ali Hepher told BBC Sport:

"There's areas to improve in there, but equally there's a lot of good stuff in the second half. The guys worked really hard and fought hard for those points and relentlessly kept going after it, which was a pleasing sight.

"We were in a mood to work and we worked hard. It didn't feel like that scoreline really. It felt way, way more competitive than that and we maybe had a couple of bounces of the ball that went our way.

"It wasn't long ago we got beaten at home by Sale who are another very good side. There are 11 sides that can roll you over. We're really aware of that. All it does is gets us the points here and now.

"The psychology and the intensity of games in the future will change week to week and they'll roll week to week. We've got to make sure we look after ourselves and get ourselves in the right frame of mind to play rugby."

Northampton director of rugby Chris Boyd told BBC Sport:

"We chased the game at the end and coughed up two or three soft tries, so that last little bit for me is almost irrelevant. 57, 27, 37? It doesn't bother me.

"We got through to 34 minutes and it was 8-0 and the plan was to try and get through the first 40 minutes with minimal damage and see if we could bring some fresh guys on at half-time, which was a pre-panned move to see if we could attack it a different way.

"But between 34 minutes and 40 minutes eight became 22 and then we chased the game.

"We paid the price in the end for overplaying, being ill-disciplined and trying to solve problems that guys took it upon themselves to solve."

Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; O'Flaherty, Whitten, Hendrickson, Woodburn; J Simmonds (capt), White; Moon, Taione, Williams, Kirsten, Hill, Ewers, Vermeulen, S Simmonds.

Replacements: Poole, Hepburn, Pieretto, Skinner, Armand, Maunder, Steenson, Bodilly.

Northampton Saints: Tuala; Collins, Proctor, Symons, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Mitchell; van Wyk, Fish, Hill, Coles, Bean, Wood, Tonks, Harrison (capt).

Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Franks, Glynn, Ludlam, Reinach, Dingwall, Olowofela.

Sin-bin: Collins (35).

Referee: Jack Makepeace.