Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs

Saturday, 5th June 2021, 7:00 am
Saints won at Exeter in February

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 21)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Sunday, June 6, 2021, 3pm

Weather: 20c, mostly cloudy

Live television coverage: BT Sport 1

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys

Saints: Freeman; Sleightholme, Proctor, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, James; Waller (cc), Matavesi, Painter; RIbbans, Ratuniyarawa; Lawes, Ludlam (cc), Wood.

Replacements: Haywood, Iyogun, Hill, Moon, Coles, Mitchell, Grayson, Dingwall.

Exeter Chiefs: Hogg; Cordero, Slade, Whitten, O'Flaherty; J Simmonds (c), Maunder; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Williams; Gray, Hill; S Skinner, Kirsten, S Simmonds.

Replacements: Yeandle, Hepburn, Street, Lonsdale, Capstick, Townsend, H Skinner, Devoto.

Outs: Saints: Owen Franks (foot), George Furbank (calf), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Teimana Harrison (calf), Nick Isiekwe (pectoral).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 20, 2021: Exeter Chiefs 12 Saints 13 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: It's not often a team beats Exeter once in a season, let alone twice - but Saints have that chance on Sunday.

Chris Boyd's side gritted their teeth to deliver a memorable win at Sandy Park in February, and they will need every ounce of the defensive desire they showed that day to repeat the trick this time.

Exeter are currently rampant and they come into this game on the back of a 74-3 evisceration of Newcastle Falcons.

Rob Baxter's men are, yet again, peaking at the right time as they prepare for a shot at the Premiership play-offs once more.

And judging by their team selection, they have no intention to ease off at the Gardens.

But Saints have had some good results against Exeter in recent years, often saving some of their best rugby for home fixtures against the Chiefs.

And with the pressure off for the black, green and gold, they will be a dangerous proposition, as long as they can get the amount of possession they need to do damage.

Most would have Exeter heavy favourites for this match - and rightly so.

But Saints have shown a penchant to compete with the best the league has to offer this season, beating Exeter and Sale and being narrowly beaten by Bristol - twice.

Fans will flood back into Franklin's Gardens this weekend, for the second game in succession.

And it was clear what a lift those supporters gave Saints against Wasps last time out.

If the hosts can channel that energy once more and get their attacking game working to its fullest effect, they will fancy their chances.

And while there is no play-off place to play for, Saints will certainly be playing to show they can more than mix it with the top four once more before the season is out.

Tom's prediction: Saints have the chance to do the double over Exeter this weekend and, with their fans back and the sun on their back, let's keep the faith and back Chris Boyd's side to get the job done. Saints 27 Exeter 24.