Aviva Premiership: Northampton secure win on the road at Exeter
Last Updated: 05/01/13 6:08pm
Northampton moved above Exeter and into the top four in the Aviva Premiership table with an impressive 30-19 triumph over the Chiefs.
Jim Mallinder's Saints bounced back from successive defeats over the festive period, in the process becoming the first visiting side to win at Sandy Park in the league this season.
Tries from Ken Pisi, Soane Tonga'uiha and GJ van Velze proved enough to see off the Chiefs in a battle between two teams with serious play-off hopes.
Defeat leaves much work to do for Exeter; they dominated possession for long periods, particularly in the opening half, but failed to turn their supremacy into points on the scoreboard.
Gareth Steenson did put them into the lead with a penalty in the 14th minute, only for a poor clearing kick from full-back Luke Arscott to result in Northampton scoring the opening try against the run of play.
Ben Foden seized on the error from his opposite number, fizzing through a gap before setting Pisi free. Stephen Myler kicked the conversion and then landed a penalty in the 28th minute to take Saints into double figures.
The fly-half hit the post with another three-point attempt, though Exeter gave him an immediate chance to have another go from the resulting scrum that the fly-half didn't waste.
Exeter made sure the gap was back down to seven at the break, however, when Dylan Hartley was penalised at the breakdown; Steenson kicked the penalty after referee Greg Garner had shown the visiting hooker a yellow card.
Northampton gave away two more penalties during the 10 minutes they were without their England international, though a rare foray forward did result in a penalty of their own that Myler successfully kicked, making it 16-12 to the away side by the time Hartley returned from the sin-bin.
They had a chance to kick for goal again when Exeter were caught offside in the shadow of their own posts, but instead opted to go for the try. Their reward was a superb catch-and-drive from a Hartley line-out that climaxed with Tonga'uiha getting the ball down over the line.
The Chiefs followed suit when they had a similarly kickable penalty at the other end, Sireli Naqelevuki through sheer force getting a converted score that put the game back in the balance going into the final 15 minutes.
However, any home hopes of a comeback victory were dashed when Hartley's bravery to kick for the corner, rather than take an easy three, allowed GJ van Velze to be driven over by his forward comrades.