Match Centre: Northampton Saints 26-29 Exeter Chiefs

Joe Simmonds contributed with nine points for Exeter Chiefs
Joe Simmonds contributed with nine points for Exeter Chiefs
©Steve Haag

Northampton Saints 26-29 Exeter Chiefs, Franklin’s Gardens

Joe Simmonds kicked the decisive penalty goal in the 75th minute as Exeter Chiefs edged out a 14-man Northampton Saints 29-26 in the 21st round Gallagher Premiership clash at Franklin's Gardens.

The win has taken Exeter Chiefs to 78 points as they reclaim their second position in the table and will face on third placed Sale Sharks in the final round next Saturday in a bid for a home play-off while Northampton continue to remain at fifth with 55 points.

Northampton got off to a promising start when they set up a line out in the corner and Dan Biggar provided a perfect assist for Rory Hutchinson to cross in the 7th minute. However, they were down to 14 players by the 15th minute with David Ribbans was sent-off after making contact with the head of Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Despite, down on the numerical advantage, Northampton extended their lead further after Hutchinson grabbed a grubber kick from Biggar, who also slotted a conversion making it 12-0. Things could have turned from bad to worse for Rob Baxter's men as another assist from Biggar almost allowed Matt Proctor to dot down but Exeter managed to hold him off.

Nevertheless, Biggar with a penalty kick and a drop goal before the break ensured Northampton completed the opening half with a dominant 18-0 lead.

Exeter showed a much better intent in the second half when Facundo Cordero offloaded to Sam Skinner as he went over. Joe Simmonds missed the conversion but ensured he added in the 49th minute touchdown from Hogg as he capitalised on a pass from Ian Whitten as the gap came down to six points.

Biggar with a 53rd minute penalty goal restored a nine-point lead for the home side but Stu Townsend went over the line at the back of a driving maul with the conversion from Joe bringing the scoreline to 21-19.

Northampton got their third try with Tommy Freeman creating space for Mike Haywood to score but Townsend was once again in action with this time allowing Ollie Devoto to crash over the line. Simmonds' conversion meant the scores were levelled 26-26. With five minutes left in the game, Saints conceded a penalty deep inside their 22 and Simmonds ensured he made no mistake as the Chiefs completed a 29-26 win.

Team line-up:

Northampton: Freeman; Sleightholme, Proctor, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, James; Waller, Matavesi, Painter, Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa, Lawes, Ludlam, Wood.

Reserves: Haywood, Iyogun, Heffernan, Moon, Coles, Mitchell, J Grayson, Dingwall.

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

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

Widely regarded as the most competitive rugby union league in the can only be the Gallagher Premiership.

The division is becoming more and more exciting as each year passes by so who will be lifting silverware at Twickenham in May?

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