Saints do not miss Red Rose players

Northampton Saints 33 Exeter Chiefs 3

Like any proud Englishman, Jim Mallinder would have enjoyed seeing England go all the way in the World Cup. On the other hand the premature rejection of the Red Rose party means that Northampton can welcome back Chris Ashton and Co, even if the Saints did not exactly cover themselves with glory in New Zealand.

So, who is going to replace Martin Johnson in the England job? Just kidding, Johnno... though if there is a change in the hierarchy, Mallinder would be a contender. As a former employee of the RFU he had a very successful stint as coach of the England Saxons, winning 15 out of 16 matches and the Churchill Cup to boot.

"We want England to do well because it's good for club rugby," Mallinder said. "From a selfish point of view it's great to have all our internationals back and we'll chuck a few in next week. England were very disappointing but you sensed that French performance was coming."

The Saints didn't appear to miss anybody. Exeter, who began the season with victory over another debilitated Midlands powerhouse, Leicester, were at their worst here. After a great passage of play Saints hit the front with an early try from James Downey, and although the Chiefs hammered away for most of the first half it got them nowhere.

Ryan Lamb showed how to unlock a defence with a grub-kick that created a try for Paul Diggin. With the Chiefs on the wrong end of a punishing penalty count, Lamb landed four penalties to add to his two conversions, the second of which went over via the bar. His kicking was emulated by Jon Clarke in the second half, resulting in a try for Scott Armstrong. The only regret for Saints is that they failed to turn superior sophistication into a bonus point.

Northampton G Tonks; P Diggin, J Clarke, J Downey (T May, 64), S Armstrong; R Lamb (S Myler, 60), L Dickson (M Roberts, 60); P Doran Jones (A Waller, 57), M Haywood (T Mercey, 71), B Mujati, S Manoa, C Day (M Sorenson, 29), J Craig (R Wilson, 60), P Dowson (capt), C Clark.

Exeter L Arscott; J Tatupu (B Rennie, 52), S Naqelevuki, J Shoemark, M Jess; I Mieres (G Steenson, 60), H Thomas (K Barrett, 60); B Moon (B Sturgess, 52), N Clark (C Whitehead, 52), J Andress (L Fairbrother, 77), T Hayes (capt), A Muldowney (J Phillips, 57), T Johnson (B White, 67), R Baxter, J Scaysbrook.

Referee G Garner(Coventry).

Northampton

Tries: Downey, Diggin, Armstrong

Cons: Lamb 2, Myler

Pens: Lamb 4

Exeter

Pen: Mieres

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