Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Exeter review and player ratings

A PISI THE ACTION - Ken Pisi is all smiles after scoring against Exeter (picture by Linda Dawson)
A PISI THE ACTION - Ken Pisi is all smiles after scoring against Exeter (picture by Linda Dawson)

As far as starts to the season go, Saints’ was pretty exceptional.

They clicked into gear from kick-off to put their Aviva Premiership opener against Exeter to bed inside 35 minutes.

Four tries during that time secured a welcome five points to get the campaign up and running ahead of tricky trips to Harlequins and Gloucester.

And one of the highlights was the impact made by a couple of players who, a year ago, many fans may not have heard of.

Luther Burrell and Sam Dickinson ran the show, allying power with panache as they helped Saints on their way to a 38-11 success.

While George North, Alex Corbisiero and Kahn Fotuali’i took top billing, the northern boys proved they can be headline acts, too.

Centre Burrell was instrumental in the opening two scores, flinging a fantastic pass out to Dylan Hartley for the first before making a cutting break and teeing up Ken Pisi for the second.

No.8 Dickinson also wreaked havoc, blasting holes in the Exeter backline and almost getting on the scoresheet himself in a powerhouse performance.

Of course, it wasn’t all about those two men, but their opening-game form shows just how strong this season’s Saints squad is.

So strong, that Lions star North did not even have to register for his men to get maximum points from their opening fixture.

So strong that the likes of Samu Manoa and Kahn Fotuali’i could be left on the bench until 20 minutes from time.

So strong that some of the stodgy games at the Gardens last season seemed a lfetime away.

But, as Mallinder pointed out after the match, it’s only one match of 22 in the marathon that is the Premiership season.

Trips to The Stoop and Kingsholm now lie in wait and you can bet your bottom dollar their residents will be out to stop the Saints hype.

But if the men in green, black and gold can continue at the pace at which they began their first game of the new season, there will be plenty more strong showings in the coming weeks.

How they rated...


Showed plenty of determination to help set up Tom Wood’s try and was part of an exciting backs performance... 7


Continued his sharp pre-season form and proved a thorn in Exeter’s side throughout, deservedly getting on the scoresheet with a fine finish... 8


Looked in good nick as he played a creative role in midfield, ending up on the scoresheet on the opening day of the season for the second year in succession... 7


Brilliant showing from the big man, who created the opening two tries by allying intelligence with raw power. Gets better and better... 8


Didn’t get the try everyone at the Gardens wanted him to but still played his part in a fantastic first-half performance... 7


Mr Reliable put in a flawless kicking display, landing all five conversions and adding a penalty... 8


A sparky showing from the scrum-half, who had a good pre-season and is pushing Kahn Fotuali’i in the battle for the No.9 spot... 7


A good competitive debut from the England prop, who helped Saints show their steel up front... 7


Great performance, considering he hadn’t played a pre-season game. Showed real determination to get on the scoresheet... 8


Saints’ first-choice No.3 was part of a good front row effort, giving the Chiefs little chance to build from the set piece... 7


Was perhaps unfortunate to be sin-binned for a tackle during the second half, but otherwise put in a good performance... 7


Showed real appetite for the fight and stood out as he ensured Exeter remained second best in the set piece... 7


Showed good awareness to track Foden’s run and pick up the ball to score. The flanker is also a menace at the breakdown... 7


Picked up an early yellow card as Saints were put under pressure on their own line, but all round display was impressive... 7


Great debut for the No.8, who had waited a year for this moment. Showed huge desire as he carried the ball time after time to keep Exeter under pressure... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)


Game was already won by the time he came on for his competitive debut in Saints colours, but still showed glimpses of his class... 6


You can’t keep the big man out of the action and even though he started on the bench, he still managed to come on and grab a try... 7


Another good cameo from the young hooker, who is a great player to have as back-up for club captain Hartley... 6


Another important player who made his way onto the pitch during the second half. Adds great energy... 6