Northampton 38 Exeter 11 match report: Dylan Hartley leads charge to overwhelm Chiefs

Saints get season off to a flyer with an emphatic win over Exeter

Franklin's gardens

No one was more chuffed with this serenely simple win for Northampton than Dylan Hartley, the club's captain and hooker, who played his first match since being sent off in last May's Premiership final and scored the first of the Saints' four first-half tries.

"It was difficult for me, there were all these little sub-plots going on in my head," said Hartley. "How I'm going to deal with the ref, how are the crowd going to react to me, not playing any minutes in pre-season. I seemed to deal with it okay. This was the perfect way to start the season and start afresh."

Northampton pounded Exeter with power rugby, and the two headliners in a strong set of summer signings – George North and Alex Corbisiero – fitted in nicely.

As for Hartley, he took care to shake the hand of the referee JP Doyle when he was substituted in the second half, as warm cheers of tender affection teemed down from the stands. "The people round here are really good and friendly; the only stick I've had is from people hiding behind keyboards," said Hartley, who has never admitted to the offence of verbal abuse of Wayne Barnes in the final, but spent "a long summer" banned from playing instead of touring with the Lions or England nevertheless. "I was very aware of how to manage a ref," Hartley said.

There was frustration in other aspects of the game. The Television Match Official system is in operation at every Premiership match now, but the trouble at a non-televised match such as this one is that the crowd are not privy to any replays. All they saw was the referee making the TMO signal and sticking a finger in his ear, awaiting a verdict.

So it could only be an educated guess what Doyle was checking before he awarded Northampton's George Pisi a 36th-minute bonus-point try, which had begun with a quick line-out in Saints' half and featured charges by Phil Dowson and North in midfield and soft hands by Sam Dickinson and Courtney Lawes at the end.

It was probably those two passes that Doyle wanted looked at, but who knows? There should be a way of giving spectators the accurate information. In any event, the try was converted by Steve Myler, just as the fly-half had done with the three that went before it. Myler also kicked a penalty after 15 minutes and Exeter's two penalties by Gareth Steenson – one after a yellow card to Dowson – were scant comfort as Saints' big runners carved them up and caused confusion.

North and Corbisiero did play in pre-season after joining from Scarlets and London Irish respectively, and even yesterday it was a mere nine weeks since they had helped the Lions to their victory over Australia in the third Test in Sydney.

By contrast Hartley looked a couple of strides short of a gallop for his third-minute, 15-metre run-in from Luther Burrell's long pass but he still held off Phil Dollman and Brett Sturgess.

Next came the first look at the "crouch, bind, set" on-trial scrum engagement. Doyle and the packs spent two minutes and two resets to arrive at a penalty against Saints' Tom Mercey for not binding.

 



Exeter's coach Rob Baxter denounced the whole process afterwards, complaining that referees had just been getting used to the previous engagement when it was changed. Otherwise, Baxter put this first opening-day loss since his club joined the Premiership down as a kind of extra pre-season run-out.

Following a try by Ken Pisi made by Burrell's show and go, and another for Tom Wood when Ben Foden's kick-chase got Exeter in another muddle, there was a scrum where Northampton's all England-qualified front row marched their opponents backwards and upwards. Cue a penalty and, you would imagine, a box ticked for the England coaches Stuart Lancaster and Graham Rowntree.

Courtney Lawes was sent to the sin bin for tackling without using his arms seven minutes into the second half, but with Steenson missing touch, and Haydn Thomas thwarted twice – first with an optimistic chip, then with a dart for the line held up – Exeter were stymied until their captain, Dean Mumm, corkscrewed to a try in the 60th minute.

North was easily read and robbed on an infield break from a wheeling scrum, and it fell instead to Christian Day's catch-and-drive to make a try for Samu Manoa with 72 minutes gone, with Myler converting.

"Our attack was good in the first half and defence was good in the second," said Jim Mallinder, the Northampton coach, who praised Hartley but was no less satisfied with Burrell and Dickinson, the latter of whom has bided even more time than Hartley, having been injured or loan to Moseley since moving from Rotherham a year ago.

Northampton B Foden; K Pisi (J Elliott, 70), G Pisi (J Wilson, 60), L Burrell, G North; S Myler, L Dickson (K Fotuali'i, 56); A Corbisiero (A Waller, 60), D Hartley (capt; M Haywood, 58), T Mercey (G Denman, 60), C Lawes (S Manoa, 56), C Day, T Wood (C Clark, 58), P Dowson, S Dickinson.

Exeter P Dollman; M Jess, I Whitten, J Shoemark (S Hill, 56), T James; G Steenson (H Slade, 51), H Thomas (D Lewis, 56); B Sturgess (B Moon, 54), J Yeandle (C Whitehead, 54), H Tui (C Rimmer, 54), D Mumm (capt), D Welch (Hayes, 66), T Johnson, J Scaysbrook (B White, 51), D Ewers.

Referee JP Doyle.

Northampton Saints

Tries: Hartley, K Pisi, Wood, G Pisi, Manoa

Cons: Myler 5

Pen: Myler

Exeter Chiefs

Tries: Mumm

Pens: Steenson 2

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine