If this was the appetizer, then next week’s main course should serve up another treat as Exeter Chiefs and Northampton Saints will battle it out for a place in this season’s Gallagher Premiership Final at Twickenham.
Rob Baxter’s side bagged top spot – for a second successive season – producing a ruthless second half showing to eventually stymie the threat of the visiting Saints, who had twice taken the lead through converted tries from Piers Francis and Rory Hutchinson.
On both occasions, the Devonians responded in kind. First, Henry Slade glided over for their opener, before England colleague Ben Moon ploughed his way over from close range to restore parity.
As Exeter’s grip on proceedings grew, so the scoreboard kept ticking, this time Don Armand – on his 100th Premiership appearance for the club – found his way over to put his side in front for the first time.
With the Saints struggling to contend the home threat as half time approached, the loss of Courtney Lawes and Alex Waller to yellow cards did little to help their cause.
The Chiefs smelt blood and with the clock run for the opening 40 minutes, it was the home side who were camped within sniffing distance of the Northampton line. However, just as Exeter looked poised to pounce, Ollie Devoto’s intended wrap around move was read superbly by South African Cobus Reinach, who raced the length of the field to level things up at the turn.
Baxter was less than impressed with that score, but whatever the Chiefs’ Director of Rugby muttered to his troops during the interval, it clearly had the desired effect as his side ruled the roost during the second period.
Tries from Matt Kvesic, Dave Dennis and Luke Cowan-Dickie put the seal on a polished display from the Chiefs, whose victory not only ensured them of top billing at the end of the regular season, but also ensured a club record haul of 86 points accrued from a Premiership campaign.
Northampton, well beaten come the end, were able at least able to celebrate somewhat as results elsewhere meant they clung on narrowly to the final play-off place.
Now, however, the two must do it all over again.
For the full match report, go to https://www.exeterchiefs.co.uk/news/chiefs-40-saints-21