Saints ship seven tries in Sandy Park defeat

Juan Pablo Estelles scored twice and set another up for Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Juan Pablo Estelles scored twice and set another up for Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints suffered another sizeable defeat as Exeter Chiefs scored seven in the Anglo-Welsh Cup opener at Sandy Park.

It was a fifth successive loss in all competitions for Jim Mallinder's men, who have conceded a try bonus point in each of those fixtures.

Saints, who lost 43-28, were struck by early injuries in this encounter, with second row duo Christian Day and James Craig both forced off.

And another big blow came when debutant full-back George Furbank, who had earlier scored a try, also had to be replaced after an aerial collision.

Exeter made the most of the disruption in the Saints ranks as the home side produced a ruthless display.

They dominated in the scrum throughout and their physicality all round the park proved far too much for Saints to handle.

The away side did manage to grab a losing bonus-point thanks to a double from Juan Pablo Estelles and efforts from Furbank and Rory Hutchinson.

But Exeter were the only side celebrating at the final whistle.

The Chiefs, in their striking pink strip, had put the pressure on from the off, kicking to the corner after Saints were penalised for a deliberate knock-on.

And it wasn't too long before the hosts had the score their early pressure merited as a beautifully-judged crossfield kick from Joe Simmonds landed in the hands of James Short.

Simmonds then added the extras to the Short score and Exeter held a 7-0 lead.

But Saints responded superbly as Cobus Reinach broke clear and after a clever offloads from Ken Pisi and Stephen Myler, Furbank grabbed a debut score.

Myler converted with ease from in front of the posts and the scores were level.

Furbank was in the thick of the action in the formative stages of the game and he did brilliantly to gather a high ball under real pressure, taking a heavy knock in the process.

Furbank was forced off, and so was Day, adding more misery after an early head injury for Craig.

It was starting to resemble an episode of Casualty and Exeter had an issue of their own as Ollie Atkins had to go off for a head injury assessment, bringing Toby Salmon into the action.

And Salmon was soon on the scoresheet, proving too powerful for Saints out wide and restoring the Exeter's lead.

The Chiefs were now on the charge, making the most of Saints' early injury woes, and Alec Hepburn grabbed the home side's third try in just 22 minutes.

Simmonds converted to make it 19-7, but Saints finally got back in the game as they turned up the heat from a lineout and Estelles popped up to score.

Myler converted to cut the gap to five points with seven minutes to go until the break.

However, Exeter were to grab their bonus-point score before the break as flanker James Freeman proved too strong for young back Tom Emery and powered over the line.

Simmonds converted to make it 26-14 and there was more pain to come for Saints before half-time as hooker Elvis Taione made the most of a big lineout drive to dot down.

Simmonds struck the right post with the conversion, leaving the score at 31-14 as the teams headed in after an action-packed first 40 minutes.

Saints managed to make a couple of turnovers after half-time, giving the lively Reinach a chance to spring an attack, which Exeter did well to stop.

And the Chiefs then turned on the power at the scrum, which was an area they were really dominating, winning two penalties in quick succession.

It gave them a platform from which to launch yet another attack, and winger Tom O'Flaherty ran in out wide to score.

Simmonds hit the left post with his conversion, but Saints were being overwhelmed in almost every department and Exeter scored their seventh through replacement Salmon.

Simmonds made no mistake with this conversion as the Chiefs closed in on the 50-point mark.

But Saints were to score next as Estelles beat a despairing dive from a home defender and cruised over the line for his second try of the game.

James Grayson converted and more fine work from Estelles, who jinked his way through, led to a score for Hutchinson as the centre sped in and stretched out an arm to score.

Grayson again added the extras to cut the gap to 15 points with eight minutes remaining.

But there was no late fightback for Saints as Exeter claimed the spoils in front of their satisfied supporters at Sandy Park.

Exeter Chiefs: M'Boge (Morley 68); O'Flaherty, Hendrickson, Devoto (Hill 50), Short; Simmonds, Chudley; Hepburn (Keast 65), Taione (Malton 40), Low (Street 57); Atkins (Salmon 50), Skinner; Freeman, Kvesic, Horstmann (c) (Lawday 68).

Saints: Furbank (Emery 16); Estelles, Hutchinson, Stephenson, Pisi; Myler (Grayson 57), Reinach (Mitchell 60); van Wyk (Beesley 68), Marshall, Hill (Ford-Robinson 55); Craig (J Onojaife 3), Day (Eadie 15); Wood, Nutley, Dickinson (c).

Referee: Matthew O'Grady