Exeter Chiefs 24 Northampton Saints 26: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

First it was Macarena, then it was Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien and next you thought it might be My Heart Will Go On as Saints looked set to sink at Sandy Park.

Monday, 27th September 2021, 12:30 pm
Fraser Dingwall

But after Chris Boyd’s side had to endure some interesting tunes blaring out after Exeter’s first two tries, suddenly the record started to change.

Suddenly Saints started playing to their own tune.

And from 14-0 down after just seven minutes, the black, green and gold found their voice.

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They didn’t just level it up, they actually went ahead at 17-14.

It was a stunning show of character after such a horrible start.

But that was just the start of it.

Because after conceding just before the break and losing Sam Matavesi to the sin bin, Saints had another mountain to scale.

At 24-17 up, Exeter would have been confident of closing it out in front of close to a full house at home.

But Saints had other ideas.

After thanks to some nerveless kicking from the tee, they snatched a memorable success, their second at Sandy Park in 2021.

Prior to the gritty 13-12 win back in February, Saints had not won at Exeter since 2014.

Now they have done it twice in the space of seven months.

It shows that this team has learned lessons, allowing them to avoid crumbling under an early Exeter barrage.

Yes, the hosts were missing so many star men, particularly in the pack, but Saints weren't exactly fully loaded, either.

The away side, despite not having the likes of Courtney Lawes and Dan Biggar, were solid in a lot of areas.

Their scrum was more than the equal of Exeter, the lineout, in an attacking and defensive sense, functioned well.

And when gaps appeared, Saints managed to exploit Exeter on a couple of occasions.

There was no cavern in class between the teams this time.

And if you look at the three games the sides have scrapped it out in during 2021, Saints have won twice, by a total margin of three points, and lost once, by three points.

Boyd's side have been far from overawed in what is now elite company in recent times and they have shown they can push the teams seen as the league's title contenders all the way.

What they must now also show is the consistency to back up this sort of win against teams they are likely to be favourites against.

Whether they can will be revealed soon.

But for now, Boyd's characterful and courageous side can reflect on a job very well done.

How they rated...

GEORGE FURBANK - CHRON STAR MAN

What a start to the season for the flying full-back! He was man of the match against Gloucester and he stepped up late on here to seal another win... 8.5

OLLIE SLEIGHTHOLME

Looked lively as he made his first appearance of the season and Exeter had to be on their toes to stop him... 7

MATT PROCTOR

Is starting to really show his class and his excellent awareness and footwork earned him a crucial try... 8.5

FRASER DINGWALL

This young man has started the season in really impressive fashion, making some huge hits as well as contributions in attack... 8.5

TOM COLLINS

Was hungry to get involved and caused problems when he did get the ball in hand... 7

JAMES GRAYSON

One missed kick to touch aside, this was a pretty impressive performance from the fly-half, who did well from the tee and also produced some magic for Saints' first try... 8

ALEX MITCHELL

Etched his name on the scoresheet and he was a real thorn in the side of Exeter with his darting runs and passing game... 8

ALEX WALLER

This was a sweet win for the long-serving prop, who even finished the day with a 100 per cent record on lineout throws as he took one that Saints won... 7.5

SAM MATAVESI

Found himself in the sin bin towards the end of the first half but he was a key presence when he was on the field as he kept the lineout secure... 8

EHREN PAINTER

Got a good 40 minutes under his belt, refusing to take a backward step as he showed he could mix it with the hosts... 7

DAVID RIBBANS

A big performance from the lock, who looked better for having the Gloucester game under his belt... 8.5

API RATUNIYARAWA

Got through plenty of work and carried with real force as Saints took the fight to Exeter... 8

TOM WOOD

Was a key man at the lineout, both attacking and defending, and this was yet another impressive performance to add to his long career of them... 8.5

LEWIS LUDLAM

Another display full of power and passion as the skipper led from the front at Sandy Park... 8.5

TEIMANA HARRISON

Was desperate to showcase his power as he took Exeter on and fought for every blade of grass, as usual... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

PAUL HILL (for Painter 40)

Helped to keep Saints on the front foot as he produced another important cameo... 7

JUARNO AUGUSTUS (for Harrison 52)

His first Premiership away day, and he put in plenty of effort to help Saints get the job done at the end... 7

NICK AUTERAC (for Waller 53)

Another good cameo from the prop as he kept the scrum steady and also defended well when he had to... 7