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Match Reaction: Northampton Saints 31-28 Exeter Chiefs

Match Reaction: Northampton Saints 31-28 Exeter Chiefs

Northampton Saints produced a brilliant display in both attack and defence to edge out Gallagher Premiership Rugby leaders Exeter Chiefs in a thrilling encounter at Franklin’s Gardens.

Cobus Reinach’s intercept try just before the hour proved crucial in a 31-28 success, with Piers Francis, Dan Biggar and Fraser Dingwall having all crossed in the first half for Saints.

After trailing 14-0 early on, Exeter fought back with four tries of their own, a penalty score, Santiago Cordero, Ben Moon and finally Matt Kvesic crossing for two bonus points with the final play.

MAN OF THE MATCH

There were plenty of contenders for Saints, with Courtney Lawes leading from example up front, while Dan Biggar pulled the strings at fly-half and Fraser Dingwall made a huge impression off the bench. But the official nod went to Cobus Reinach and it is hard to argue after his opportunism made the difference for the second week running. He didn’t have to go quite as far as he had at Worcester last week, but Reinach’s speed of thought saw him time his run perfectly to pick off a pass from Nic White off the top of a lineout and race 50 metres for the game’s crucial score.

TRY OF THE MATCH

It took less than two minutes, but it was always going to be hard to top Piers Francis’ opening try. Attacking from deep, Tom Collins spotted a half-gap in the Exeter defensive line and ran straight through it. From there he found his support in the shape of Dan Biggar, who then waited to offload to Francis, who was running the perfect angle to sprint through and score.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

Fraser Dingwall came off the bench to replace Francis after just five minutes, and the 19-year-old coped admirably on the big stage. When Exeter responded to Saints’ early salvo with two tries of their own, it seemed the storm had been weathered. It was then that Jamie Gibson forced a turnover off the back of a scrum, and then Dingwall showed his quick feet to step inside Ian Whitten and race over for the third try to give Saints back the lead. That he followed it up with a try-saving tackle on Ollie Devoto soon after, was more proof of the value of the teenager.

WHAT THEY SAID

Northampton Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd: “We’ve been going north in terms of performances. It hasn’t been showing up in the results column. But it’s a good Christmas present to pick up nine points in two games.

“The result will do wonders for our self-belief as we’ve lacked a bit of that.”

Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter: “They turned up in a better frame of mind than us and were more committed so I have no complaints about the result.

“We’ve got to look at ourselves. Had we rolled over another try and nicked a result that would just have covered up a few deficiencies.

“We are lacking a bit of consistency and we’ll need to address that in the week by tweaking a few things as Bristol will be coming out in the same way next week.”

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