Exeter Chiefs 43 Northampton Saints 28: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Juan Pablo Estelles scored twice for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Juan Pablo Estelles scored twice for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Anglo-Welsh Cup matches don't typically raise too many eyebrows.

But when you suffer a fifth successive defeat, shipping seven tries, with a team that includes plenty of experience, that is exactly what happens.

Saints sent what appeared to be a strong side to Sandy Park.

They expected not only to compete with a mix and match Exeter, but to beat them.

However, what unfolded was more of the same as November started in the same fashion as October ended.

Saints endured four defeats in as many matches last month, conceding 21 tries in the process.

And it is now 28 in five games after this latest sobering setback.

As has so often been the case at Sandy Park in recent seasons, Saints, who have not won at the ground since February 2014, were bullied by the Chiefs.

The home side took their opponents on up front, laying a solid foundation for a fine win, despite naming a team made up of players who needed game time and young guns who required first-team experience.

Saints were comprehensively beaten at the set piece and they struggled to cope with the Exeter power when the men in pink put pressure on in the 22.

It was another tough one to watch for any Northampton fan who had made the long trek to the west country.

And it just felt like misery on misery after the events of October.

It has to be said that Saints' cause was not helped by three key injuries early on.

They lost experienced second row duo James Craig and Christian Day.

And they also saw debutant full-back George Furbank forced off after a fine cameo that included a try and a fantastic gather from a threatening high ball.

That aerial collision proved to be Furbank's undoing as he landed awkwardly and it pushed Saints into bringing 19-year-old Tom Emery into the action far earlier than they would have hoped.

Exeter exploited the disruption, with flanker James Freeman forcing his way past Emery to score.

And Saints were left with a mountain to climb as wave after wave of pressure left them reeling.

There were some bright moments in attack, with Cobus Reinach causing the Chiefs problems and Juan Pablo Estelles looking lively, particularly late on.

But aside from the try bonus point, there were few positives to be taken from another defeat, which is Saints' sixth in 10 matches this season.

They are in desperate need of a lift, and that should come against the Dragons at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

But then they will be asked to prove themselves again in the Aviva Premiership, with trips to Worcester Warriors and Sale Sharks lying in wait.

Saints will hope to deal better with those away encounters than they did with this one.

Somehow, they have got to find a way to plugging the holes in their defence because, at the moment, it seems teams score almost every time they attack.

Saints need to rediscover the intensity they had in early-season victories against Leicester and Bath.

But the same things have been said for five weeks now and Saints must sort themselves out quickly to ensure this season doesn't slip through their grasp.

How they rated...

GEORGE FURBANK

A great cameo from the youngster as he bagged a debut try and made a great grab from a high ball, but the impact sustained during that brave moment forced him off early on

JP ESTELLES - CHRON STAR MAN
Picked up a couple of tries and looked easily the most dangerous Saints player during the second half... 7

RORY HUTCHINSON
Got himself on the scoresheet, but it wasn't the easiest day going the other way as Exeter put Saints under pressure... 5

TOM STEPHENSON
Put himself about, helping to carry Saints within range for Estelles' first score and trying to get some momentum for his team... 5

KEN PISI
Was exposed defensively on a couple of occasions as he raced out of the line, but he did help to set up Furbank's score... 4

STEPHEN MYLER
Couldn't get a grip on that game, which wasn't totally his fault, as Saints were dominated up front and had no platform on which to build... 4

COBUS REINACH
Looked the liveliest Saint during the first half and the early part of the second as he played a key role in Furbank's score... 6

FRANCOIS VAN WYK
Saints had a really difficult day in the scrum as Exeter turned up the heat and this man won't have enjoyed the trip to Sandy Park... 4

REECE MARSHALL
The young hooker did well with his lineout work in tricky conditions and he made some good hits, but this was a tough learning curve... 5

PAUL HILL
Not an easy day in the scrum for Saints and although he had some decent moments around the park, this was a day the away team will want to forget... 4

JAMES CRAIG
Didn't have any time to make an impact as he was forced off with a head injury after just three minutes

CHRISTIAN DAY
Suffered a leg wound and had to come off after just 15 minutes so didn't get a chance to influence the game

TOM WOOD
Did his best to show his class on a tough day for his team, but Exeter overwhelmed Saints in most departments... 5

BEN NUTLEY
Usually impresses when he gets a first-team start, but his handling wasn't as secure as it needed to be on this occasion... 4

SAM DICKINSON
Kept battling for his team as he desperately tried to get to grips with the powerful home side... 5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

JORDAN ONOJAIFE (for Craig 3)

The lock is looking to break into the first team in the not too distant future, but this day didn't go as he would have hoped... 5

MITCH EADIE (for Day 15)
Made his first Saints appearance since suffering an injury in the opening-day defeat to Saracens, but this wasn't the result he wanted... 5

TOM EMERY (for Furbank 16)
Saints wouldn't have wanted to throw the youngster in for his debut so early in the game and it was tough for him against some big runners... 4

JAMAL FORD-ROBINSON (for Hill 55)
Came on at a time when Exeter had taken the game away from Saints and they continued to put pressure on up front... 5

JAMES GRAYSON (for Myler 57)
Kicked a couple of conversions and was on the field as Saints fought for a try bonus point, but the game was already gone... 6

Tom Emery was forced into the action early on

Tom Emery was forced into the action early on

James Grayson kicked two conversions

James Grayson kicked two conversions

Rory Hutchinson registered Saints' bonus-point try

Rory Hutchinson registered Saints' bonus-point try