Aviva Premiership: George North helps Northampton to victory
Last Updated: 07/09/13 6:24pm
Northampton opened their Aviva Premiership campaign in impressive fashion, overcoming two yellow cards to defeat Exeter 38-11 at Franklin's Gardens.
Dylan Hartley, Tom Wood, George and Ken Pisi and Samu Manoa all crossed for tries for the Saints - but there was to be no debut score for big-name recruit George North.
Stephen Myler slotted over all five conversion attempts and a penalty as the hosts, who also handed a debut to Alex Corbisiero in their front row, overcame spells in the sin-bin for Phil Dowson and Courtney Lawes.
Exeter's lineout was poor and they squandered chances, replying only with a Dean Mumm try just before the hour mark and two Gareth Steenson penalties.
Northampton skipper Dylan Hartley, who had offered to give up the captaincy in the summer following his red card in last season's Premiership final against Leicester, broke the deadlock after four minutes, taking Luther Burrell's looping pass and just about squeezing over out wide.
But with Brian Mujati and Paul Doran-Jones absent from Northampton's line-up, Exeter sensed a weakness up front and a rolling maul brought them under the posts where Dowson dived on the ball to kill the move.
Referee JP Doyle gave the flanker a yellow card and Steenson took the three points on offer.
However Myler quickly cancelled that penalty out and the 14 men moved further ahead when Ken Pisi finished off a fine burst by Burrell.
The home side's third try came four minutes later when Exeter full-back Phil Dollman failed to deal with an up-and-under by Ben Foden, who hacked on the loose ball and then offloaded to the supporting Wood.
Although Steenson kicked a penalty Saints secured the bonus point before the break; North blasted down his wing before quick hands switched the ball to the right wing for George Pisi to touch down.
As Northampton eased up Exeter dominated the second half and were given a helping hand on 50 minutes when Northampton saw a second man sent to the sin-bin.
After consulting the TMO Doyle sent Lawes off for 10 minutes for what was adjudged to be a dangerous tackle with his shoulder by the lock on Matt Jess.
Saints managed to keep their opponents at bay during the period, only to then allow skipper Mumm to squirm over from a scrum close to the line almost immediately after they were back to 15 on the field.
It served only to spark Northampton back into life and they added a fifth try through their forwards, Manoa on the end of a lineout drive.