Chiefs book Premiership final place

Mark Stevens
Authored by Mark Stevens
Posted Sunday, May 26, 2019 - 7:49am

London’s Calling again for Rob Baxter and his Exeter Chiefs side as they powered their way into a fourth successive Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final with victory over Northampton Saints at Sandy Park.

As it was this time last year - and also in 2016 - reigning European champions Saracens will once again provide the sizeable hurdle that the Devonians will have to overcome in the end of season showpiece at Twickenham.

The Chiefs, though, will travel in confident mood, particularly given the way they dispatched the Saints in the second half of this encounter.

Having stormed into a 14-0 lead thanks to converted tries from Harry Williams and Joe Simmonds, Northampton countered to good effect to leave just two points between the sides at the break, courtesy of a penalty try and another touchdown from full-back Ahsee Tuala.

That, however, would be as good as it got for Chris Boyd’s visitors, who were then blitzed by a ferocious second half onslaught from the Chiefs. Dave Dennis and Tom O’Flaherty both bagged a try apiece to give the home side the breathing space they craved, after which replacement Sam Simmonds ploughed his way over late on to spark scenes of delirium amongst many inside the stadium.

Now, all roads will lead to the capital once again for the Chiefs and their tribe of followers, all of whom will be in full battle cry ahead of this season-defining fixture.

A week after locking horns in the final game of the regular season, there was little change to the Chiefs line-up other than O’Flaherty was given the nod on the left wing ahead of Olly Woodburn - and Alec Hepburn was deemed fit enough to take his place on the home bench after missing out the previous week.

The Saints, meanwhile, took the opportunity to beef up their pack having felt the full force of the Exeter eight in the second half of the previous game. Into their ranks came Francois van Wyk, James Fish and Ethen Painter in the front-row, while behind Fijian powerhouse Api Ratuniyarawa was added at the expense of Jamie Gibson, who dropped to the bench.

With personnel in place and conditions perfect for running rugby, it was the Chiefs who started the brighter dominating the opening exchanges. Looking for a fast start, they tore into the Saints like a pack of ravaged beasts.

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