JIM MALLINDER has warned Saints that Exeter don’t need home comforts to cause an upset at Franklin’s Gardens today (Sunday, 3pm).
The Chiefs have a proud home record, winning 14 of their 23 Premiership games at Sandy Park since earning promotion to the top flight in 2010.
But they can also be dangerous on the road, as they proved last season by edging out both Leicester Tigers and Gloucester away from home.
They haven’t had the best of times at the Gardens, losing on both league visits to Northampton, including a 33-3 thrashing last season.
But Mallinder refuses to write them off and he knows Rob Baxter’s men, who beat Sale Sharks 43-6 last weekend, will be pose a real threat in today’s showdown.
“Exeter are a very good team, I think they’ve proved that over the last couple of years,” said the Saints boss. “That’s not just playing down at Exeter, they do travel as well. They’re a difficult side to beat.
“We started fantastically against them here last season, ran in three tries early but then they came back into the game and really put us under pressure.
“I expect it to be a very tight game, a very hard game and we’re looking forward to it.”
Last season’s win against the Chiefs at the Gardens saw one of Saints’ best performances of the season as they defied a lack of confidence after losing four games in a row to ease to victory.
And they also won the other meeting between the sides, in April, claiming an 18-15 success to all but end Exeter’s hopes of a top-four finish and effectively seal a play-off spot of their own.
“It (the win at the Gardens) was a good performance,” said Mallinder.
“We played well from the start but we’ve played in the past when they’ve been very, very good. We went down there and won a very close game just to make sure we got into the top four.
“It’s going to be a tough game on Sunday, without a doubt. We played well last week, they played well so it sets it up nicely.”