Saints overcome the sins of Hartley to rise again

Exeter Chiefs 19 Northampton Saints 30

sandy park

Pragmatism is evidently the watchword for Northampton in 2013. After the giddy heights of leading the Premiership with five successive wins (including one over Exeter Chiefs at home) they had declined into mid-table mediocrity until yesterday, when they imposed on Exeter a first home league loss this season and climbed into a play-off position.

That they did so owed much to Gloucester's unexpected defeat but Northampton will take what gifts the gods give them.

Just like their East Midland confrères from Leicester, who scored two penalty tries against Worcester on Friday, they screwed home their advantage with two tries from driven close-range lineouts and confirmed the physical edge that they had demonstrated throughout.

"It's put us back into the frame and leaves us in a decent league position," Jim Mallinder, Saints' director of rugby, said. "We have had some decent away games this season, here and against Gloucester and Bath, as well as Ulster in the Heineken Cup. Now we need to focus on our home form."

Suddenly Exeter seem as porous as the name of their ground. A draw at home to Bath the previous week and now the loss of their Premiership ground record, with Leinster, the European champions, the next side to visit. Exeter are not executing their game with the precision we have been led to expect, notably at the breakdown where Northampton's methods found far greater favour with the referee.

They will rediscover it, of course, with flanker Tom Johnson probably setting the example. Of all the players involved with a chance of being named in England's senior squad next Wednesday, Johnson did the most to impress and state his case for selection by Stuart Lancaster though Ben Foden, Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley are on the way back to their best and Tom Wood has never lost his touch. Hartley, though, must cut out his pantomime villain characteristics.

Far too often he is found on the wrong sides of rucks and, once again, was sent to the sin bin around half-time; in his absence, Exeter kicked three penalties to one by Stephen Myler and, on another day, that might have been more costly.

But Exeter's greatest fault was an inability to do the simple thing at the right time: the failure, for instance, to find touch which allowed Myler to send Foden away on the run which beat two defenders and gave Ken Pisi a straightforward finish for the first try.

Twice Exeter then opened up Northampton's zealous defence only to be penalised 10 metres from the line and the loss of Haydn Thomas just after the interval did not help.

The scrum-half took a boot in the face from one of his own players and retired disconsolate.

In Hartley's absence, Exeter reduced the gap to four points but did not realise, according to Rob Baxter, their head coach, how much pressure they were imposing on the visitors.

"Mental sharpness and better control in certain parts of the field," said Baxter, though he may have been slightly more forthright with his players.

For all the attacking gifts of Luke Arscott, Exeter could not hold steady against Northampton's driving maul.

Soane Tonga'uiha was the first to benefit after G J van Velze's lineout catch; van Velze himself was the second, with just five minutes remaining, after Samu Manoa had won the lineout.

In between Exeter did work Sereli Naqelevuki over the line, the only time Northampton's defence showed anything less than enthusiasm for the tackle.

But the Chiefs have dropped off the pace over the holiday period and their immediate punishment is the visit next weekend to the most formidable team in Europe, Clermont Auvergne.

Exeter L Arscott; G Camacho, I Whitten, P Dollman (S Naqelevuki, 48), M Jess; G Steenson (I Mieres, 61), H Thomas (K Barrett, 41); B Moon (C Rimmer, 59), N Clark (J Yeandle, 76), H Tui (C Mitchell, 59), D Mumm, J Hanks (T Hayes, 52), T Johnson, R Baxter (capt), B White (A Muldowney, 58).

Northampton B Foden; K Pisi (L Burrell, 59), G Pisi, D Waldouck, J Elliott; S Myler, L Dickson; S Tonga'uiha (A Waller, 59), D Hartley (capt), P Doran-Jones (T Mercey, 64), C Lawes (S Manoa, 55), M Sorenson, C Clark (M Haywood, 41, T Wood, 55), G J van Velze, P Dowson.

Referee G Garner (Warwickshire).

Exeter Chiefs

Try: Naqelevuki

Con: Mieres

Pens: Steenson 4

Northampton Saints

Tries: KS Pisi, Tonga'uiha, Van Velze

Cons: Myler 3

Pens: Myler 3

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain