Exeter Chiefs 36 Northampton Saints 12: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

What Saints would have given for another agonising late loss here.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 30th April 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:48 pm
Exeter smothered Saints at Sandy Park (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Exeter smothered Saints at Sandy Park (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Had they done that, they would have earned the losing bonus point they so desperately needed in the bid to finish in sixth spot in the Aviva Premiership.

But as it was, they were never close to getting it.

In truth, there was an ocean between the performance levels of these two teams.

Sam Dickinson came on after just 20 minutes

Exeter looked dangerous every time they attacked.

Saints looked anything but.

During the first quarter of the game, Saints stood tall to relentless Exeter surges and poached a try through JJ Hanrahan.

But the indefatigable nature of the home side, allied with the amount of tackles Jim Mallinder's men had to make, was always going to take its toll.

JJ Hanrahan scored Saints' opening try at Sandy Park

And so it proved towards the end of the game as the floodgates started to open and the Chiefs began to run wild.

Saints may have scored twice, but they couldn't have complained if they conceded more than the five tries they did.

Because Exeter were so, so dominant here.

It was one-way traffic in the west country and salt was rubbed in gaping wounds during the second period.

Ahsee Tuala grabbed a late score for Saints

But a little perspective still has to be applied.

While many will see this as another horrible Saints display in what has largely been a horrible season, there were extenuating circumstances.

Any team missing their two marquee players, Louis Picamoles and George North, their main fly-half, Stephen Myler, their captain, Tom Wood, a former double player of the year, Calum Clark, and one of the most in-form players in the country right now, Courtney Lawes, is going to struggle.

Whether it was Exeter or Ealing away, the loss of those men would be felt.

The Saints coaches watched on as their team were well beaten

There are so many leaders on the sidelines.

So much quality.

And you can't expect to rock up to Exeter without them - yes, Lawes did play but was only on for 20 minutes before being forced off - and get a good result.

That said, Saints fans will expect far more from the squad members who were on show here.

Again, the scrum was a worry, with Saints unable to build any sort of platform.

And again, Saints conceded 30 or more points in a match. This is the sixth time in the past eight games that has happened.

Sam Dickinson came on after just 20 minutes

Saints have now lost four matches in a row - though they will know they should have won a couple of those - and they now face a fight to be playing Champions Cup rugby next season.

They will have to beat Harlequins at Franklin's Gardens and deprive the team from The Stoop of a losing bonus point.

That is a huge challenge, especially considering Saints have now won just one of their 11 games against teams in the Premiership top six this season.

They will somehow have to summon a performance that allies attacking edge with defensive resilience.

It is something they have only done on a couple of occasions this season.

And it is something they certainly didn't do at Sandy Park on Saturday.

How they rated...


Grabbed himself a try towards the end of the game and got a couple of trademark offloads away, but didn't have much chance to continue his fine attacking form... 6


Was sin-binned towards the end of the first half and wasn't really able to have much of a say overall... 4


Had a tricky first half during which he was taken on defensively and didn't have enough support as Exeter turned up the heat... 4


Struggled with his kicking from hand during the first half and though he tried hard, it didn't really come off for the young centre... 4


Battled on and used his experience to snuff out a couple of second-half attacks, showing frustration at the lack of cover... 6


Grabbed an early try and made a couple of good breaks for Saints, but this was not an easy day for the away side's half-backs as Exeter bossed possession and territory... 6


Looked sharp enough during the opening stages, but had no ball to work with and therefore couldn't create anything... 5


Wasn't able to get the upper hand in the scrum, but worked hard around the park for the team... 5


Battled hard during the first half, throwing himself into tackles and desperately trying to lead after being given the role of captain following Wood's injury... 6


Wasn't able to have too much of an influence on the game as Saints failed to get the upper hand in the scrum and got left behind at times around the park... 4


Came in at late notice after Wood was forced to miss the game, but though he didn't do too much wrong, it was a difficult day for all Saints players... 5


Made so many tackles, getting through huge amounts of work and could still hold his head high after this display... 6


Didn't really have enough time to make an impact as he was forced off with an injury after just 20 minutes... 6


Always gives everything he's got, but found himself in a difficult defensive situation during the second half... 5


Was a menace at the breakdown during the first half, but was unable to have as much of an impact after moving from No.8 to the flank following Lawes' withdrawal... 6

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

SAM DICKINSON (for Lawes 20)

A difficult game to come into as Exeter were well and truly on the front foot, and the big No.8 couldn't help to stem the tide... 4

JP ESTELLES (for Pisi 52)

Loves to get on the front foot and side-step players, but the only side-stepping he was doing came in his own 22 as Saints were penned in... 5

CAMPESE MA'AFU (for Waller 57)

Made a rare first-team appearance and wouldn't have enjoyed it as Exeter ran Saints around until the end... 5

GARETH DENMAN (for Brookes 57)

Was a tough ask for the bench players to come on and turn things around in tricky conditions and this man did his best but without reward... 5


Came on at a time when plenty of changes were being made and wasn't able to have his typical impact... 5

MIKE HAYWOOD (for Hartley 59)

This man has been one of the stars of Saints' season, but he has been restricted to a bench role in recent weeks and this was a difficult game to be part of... 5

LEE DICKSON (for Groom 59)

Like Groom, he struggled to impact the game as Saints had no platform to build on and there was no possession for the half-backs to use to pull the strings... 5

CHRON STAR MAN - Jack Nowell (Exeter)

JJ Hanrahan scored Saints' opening try at Sandy Park
Ahsee Tuala grabbed a late score for Saints
The Saints coaches watched on as their team were well beaten