A Thomas Waldrom double capped a stunning Exeter Chiefs performance as they dispatched Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens.
The Chiefs went in at the break with a commanding 21-6 lead thanks to Waldrom’s efforts and one from Luke Cowan-Dickie.
Saints showed their spirit after the break and Tom Stephenson and Jamie Elliott replied to make the closing stages a nervy affair but Exeter hung on to celebrate a memorable victory.
The Chiefs were in fine form from the off and stated their intent with a confident and exhilarating opening.
Jack Nowell showed his power and his surge was halted by Tom Collins – who was forced off with injury for his efforts – before the Chiefs scored from a lineout drive, with Cowan-Dickie the beneficiary.
Gareth Steenson added the extras to take Exeter into a 7-0 lead but Saints responded with a penalty at the other end – the boot of Stephen Myler proving accurate.
And Myler made sure he cut the gap to just one with another penalty shortly after as the home side threatened to ignite.
But it was the visitors who responded and were taking everything the champions threw at them as Saints were forced to kick in a bid to gain territory.
The night was proving difficult for Northampton and they looked frustrated as they struggled to find a way through the sturdy Chiefs defence.
That frustration would eventually prove costly as Myler’s pass was picked off by Waldrom, who charged towards the line before sliding over it to score.
Steenson gave Exeter an eight-point lead before Northampton missed a chance to respond, Mike Haywood knocking on from a Lee Dickson pass that was too low to gather.
And a ruthless Exeter made them pay again with Waldrom picking up from a powerful scrum to add his second try of the match.
Steenson was again on hand to kick the conversion and the away side now found themselves with a 21-6 lead and had scored three unanswered tries.
It seemed as though the second period was going exactly the same way as the first with Northampton struggling to find any rhythm and the boot of Steenson increasing the visitors’ advantage after 55 minutes.
The Saints were in dire need to a lifeline and it was Stephenson who was to provide it when he surged through to score his side’s first try of the night.
Myler added the extras and the champions began to sense a comeback.
Their hopes of pulling off the miraculous were helped shortly after when Elliott added the finishing touches in the corner.
But a missed Myler conversion didn’t help matters and the Saints’ spark was dampened as Exeter sealed a fine win that lifts them to second, two points behind their defeated opponents in the table.