Saints off to a flyer as Chiefs are sent packing

SUPERB START - Saints celebrate one of their five tries against Exeter Chiefs (pictures: Linda Dawson)
SUPERB START - Saints celebrate one of their five tries against Exeter Chiefs (pictures: Linda Dawson)
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A first-half super-show helped Saints start the new Aviva Premiership season with a 38-11 evisceration of Exeter Chiefs at Franklin’s Gardens.

Jim Mallinder’s men blew their opponents away with a four-try blitz that saw them secure a bonus point inside the first 35 minutes.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Dylan Hartley, in his first game since the conclusion of his 11-week ban, Tom Wood, Ken Pisi and George Pisi dotted down as the Gardens came alive with some electric rugby.

And there was a further Saints score after the break as replacement Samu Manoa profited from an unstoppable maul to make it a fantastic five tries.

Stephen Myler was flawless with the boot, kicking 13 points as Exeter, who could only reply through a Dean Mumm score and six points from Gareth Steenson, were left reeling.

Though little can be predicted at such an embryonic stage, Saints certainly served notice of their intent in the Premiership this season with a sizzling first-half performance.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

And they didn’t even need new stars George North and Alex Corbisiero, making their first competitive starts for the club, to write their names on the scoresheet to do it.

There had been a frisson of excitement around Franklin’s Gardens ahead of kick-off, with expectation about what the new season may hold gripping the home faithful.

And they weren’t to be disappointed when the action got underway.

Myler turned down kicks at goal in favour of going for the corner and his team turned the screw, putting Exeter under immense pressure.

Luther Burrell on the charge for Saints against Exeter (pictures: Linda Dawson)

Luther Burrell on the charge for Saints against Exeter (pictures: Linda Dawson)

It didn’t take long to pay dividends as Luther Burrell’s superb long pass found its way to Hartley who powered his way over in the corner.

Myler added the extras brilliantly from the right touchline and Saints had started the new season with a bang.

But Exeter steadily grew into the game and forced their hosts into an error as Phil Dowson saw yellow with the Chiefs putting pressure on the Saints line.

Steenson kicked the penalty to reduce the deficit to four but Myler took his side back up to a seven-point advantage with a well-struck effort from the tee.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

North soon had the home fans on the edge of their seats with a huge surge from his own half into enemy territory, frightening the life out of the Chiefs defence.

They held firm on that occasion, but it wasn’t long before their line was broken as a brilliant burst from the in-form Burrell saw him offload to Ken Pisi, who danced his way over the line.

Myler added the conversion and Saints had scored 10 points to Exeter’s three while being a man light.

Saints, for whom another debutant, No.8 Sam Dickinson, was starring, were running riot and they extended their lead to a massive 24-3 inside 25 minutes as Wood touched down.

The flanker provided support for Ben Foden, who had chased down his own aerial kick and offloaded to Wood to score.

Myler was again on the money with the conversion and the home faithful had the start to the season they had dreamed of.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Exeter replied with another penalty from Steenson but it was a momentary reprive as Saints flew forward once again.

Another sublime move culminated in Courtney Lawes giving a tidy pass to George Pisi to score in the corner and secure a try bonus point inside 35 minutes.

Myler again made a tricky conversion from wide right and Saints held a huge 31-6 lead going into the break, leaving their fans salivating.

Exeter started the second half with real purpose and were aided by Lawes’ sin-binning for what referee JP Doyle felt was a dangerous tackle.

Saints brought on big guns Manoa, Kahn Fotuali’i, making his competitive debut for the club, and Calum Clark to stop the Chiefs’ second half charge.

But the away side had the bit between their teeth and got a try under their belts on 60 minutes as skipper Mumm powered over.

Replacement fly-half Henry Slade missed the conversion but the Chiefs, so far off the pace in the first period, were winning a stodgy second 5-0.

Saints, though, weren’t to be outdone and replacement Manoa profited from an unstoppable driving maul to get his team’s fifth try of the afternoon.

The flawless Myler again added the extras and the Northampton faithful were left to reflect on a job very well done ahead of tricky trips to Harlequins and Gloucester.

Saints: Foden; K Pisi (Elliott 70), G Pisi (Wilson 60), Burrell, North; Myler, L Dickson (Fotuali’i 56); Corbisiero (A Waller 60), Hartley (c) (Haywood 58), Mercey (Denman 60); Lawes (Clark 58), Day; Wood (Manoa 56), Dowson, Dickinson.

Exeter: Dollman; Jess, Whitten, Shoemark (Hill 56), James; Steenson (Slade 51), Thomas (Lewis 56); Sturgess (Moon 54), Yeandle (Whitehead 54), Tui (Rimmer 54); Mumm (c), Welch (Hayes 64); Johnson, Scaysbrook (White 51), Ewers.

Referee: JP Doyle

Attendance: 12,205

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson