More Sandy Park misery for Saints as they are smashed by Chiefs

Saints suffered another sobering Sandy Park defeat as Exeter Chiefs drew first blood in the first of three scheduled meetings between the sides this season.

By Tom Vickers
Sunday, 23rd February 2020, 2:48 pm
Updated Sunday, 23rd February 2020, 2:52 pm
Francois van Wyk started for Saints at Sandy Park
Francois van Wyk started for Saints at Sandy Park

The Chiefs scored three tries in the final eight minutes of the first half, with Tom Collins sin-binned during that spell, and it only got worse for Saints during the second period.

Exeter ran riot, racking up a total of eight tries on the day as they battered the black, green and gold 57-7 in a brutal Gallagher Premiership encounter.

It means the Chiefs have stretched their lead at the top of the table to eight points, while Saints have now suffered three league defeats on the spin.

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It is nine in a row at Sandy Park, where the black, green and gold have not won since February 2014.

And Exeter will be in bullish mood as their Champions Cup clash with Saints at Sandy Park in April edges ever closer.

Saints had suffered a blow just before kick-off at Sandy Park on Sunday afternoon as Harry Mallinder was forced to withdraw with a minor hamstring injury.

That brought Taqele Naiyaravoro into the first 15, with Ahsee Tuala switching to full-back and Mitch Eadie on the bench.

After a scrappy start, during which Saints wasted chances to attack by failing to keep hold of the ball, Exeter took the lead through a Joe Simmonds penalty.

But Simmonds failed with a simple-looking attempt soon after as Saints breathed a sigh of relief.

Saints were continually finding themselves on the wrong side of referee Jack Makepeace with penalty after penalty going in Exeter's favour.

Saints finally did make their way into the Chiefs 22, but Naiyaravoro was unable to get an offload away on two occasions and the hosts survived.

And they soon pounced as Tom O'Flaherty started things off with a scything break before the bounce of the ball bamboozled Saints and Exeter picked up before Jonny Hill powered over for the score.

Simmonds struck the woodwork with the conversion, leaving his side 8-0 up eight minutes before the break.

But Exeter didn't have to wait long for more points as Tom Collins was sin-binned for killing an attack and Elvis Taione took immediate advantage with his team's second score.

Simmonds converted to make it 15-0 and it was already looking a long way back for Saints.

And the mountain became even steeper when Jannes Kirsten stretched out an arm to score on the stroke of half-time.

Simmonds applied the salt to the wounds with the conversion to leave the away side 22-0 down after an alarming nine-minute spell.

Saints called for the cavalry at half-time, bringing on Mike Haywood, Alex Waller, Owen Franks, Lewis Ludlam.

But it was to make no difference as Exeter kept coming forward, using a free-kick from a scrum to piece together a move that ended with Tom Hendrickson skating round Collins to score.

Simmonds converted and Exeter had their bonus point inside 50 minutes, racking up a 29-0 lead in the process.

Saints simply had no answer to the power and precision of their hosts, and Ben Moon was soon charging through a gap before finishing well close to the posts.

Simmonds converted and he was soon adding the extras again as Hendrickson beat several Saints defenders to score his second.

Saints finally grabbed some points with 10 minutes to go as James Grayson went over out wide after a spell of pressure on the Exeter line.

Grayson also converted, but Exeter were straight back at the door, with the impressive O'Flaherty running in from wide on the right.

Gareth Steenson converted to bring up his team's half-century and there was still nine minutes of torture for Saints to endure.

There was seven minutes of slight respite before Tuala's pass went astray and a tidy offload sent Sam Simmonds over the line.

Steenson converted again, with a minute left on the clock, and Exeter saw it out to secure a huge win.

Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; O'Flaherty, Whitten (Bodilly 64), Hendrickson, Woodburn; J Simmonds (c) (Steenson 61), White (Maunder 55); Moon (Hepburn 55), Taione (Poole 66), Williams (Pieretto 66); Kirsten (Skinner 60), J Hill; Ewers (Armand 61), Vermeulen, S Simmonds.

Saints: Tuala; Collins, Proctor, Symons, Naiyaravoro (Dingwall 55); Grayson, Mitchell (Reinach 55); van Wyk (Waller 40), Fish (Haywood 40), Hill (O Franks 40); Coles, Bean (Glynn 60); Wood (Eadie 64), Tonks (Ludlam 40), Harrison (c).

Referee: Jack Makepeace

Attendance: 11,528