Exeter beat battling Northampton to make first Champions Cup semi-final


Henry Slade
Centre Henry Slade made the break to set up Jack Maunder’s opening try
Exeter (14) 38
Tries: Maunder, Vermeulen (2), Nowell, Hill Cons: J Simmonds (4) Steenson Pen: J Simmonds
Northampton (10) 15
Tries: Harrison, Dingwall Con: Biggar Pen: Biggar

Exeter are into their first Champions Cup semi-final after easing aside a patched-up, but battling Northampton.

Jack Maunder and Jacques Vermeulen’s tries checked Saints’ fast start, but Northampton were within four at the break after Teimana Harrison went over.

Jack Nowell’s superb try two minutes after the restart and Jonny Hill’s score gave Exeter breathing space.

Fraser Dingwall’s angled run gave the scoreline a kinder look for Saints but never threatened to change the result.

Flanker Vermeulen capped Exeter’s win with a startling step, a turn of pace and his second try.

French Top 14 champions Toulouse will travel to Sandy Park next weekend after they swept aside Ulster in the day’s earlier quarter-final.

The prospect of a final against Saracens, spiced by the London side’s wage-cap transgression, looms beyond that with the defending champions meeting Racing 92 on the other side of the draw.

It is the first time Exeter have made the semi-finals of Europe’s premier club competition in seven attempts.

The Chiefs missed out in agonising fashion in 2016 when Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion eliminated them with the final play of their quarter-final against Wasps.

This all-English clash rarely looked like being as close. But neither was it as one-sided as some had expected.

Northampton fight hard in defeat

Manny Iyogun
Iyogun (number one) was making his first start for Northampton

The teams came into the match in starkly contrasting form. Exeter had won six out of seven Premiership matches since rugby’s restart. Northampton had lost six out of seven in the same period.

Northampton had also headed home from their last visit to Sandy Park on the end of 57-7 drubbing.

Saints arrived for this match with a lengthy injury list, not least at loose-head prop where Manny Iyogun, a teenager with only one first-team appearance to his name, started.

But Northampton and Iyogun began well, applying early pressure, before a scrum against the head produced the first try after a quarter of an hour.

Centre Henry Slade punched through an unprepared Saints midfield and fed scrum-half Jack Maunder to go under the posts.

When Jacques Vermeulen burrowed over from close range nine minutes later it seemed that a heavy defeat could be brewing.

But Saints recovered with captain Teimana Harrison bundling over at the back of a rolling maul and could have gone in at the break ahead after scrum-half Henry Taylor darted through, only to be smothered by the cover defence.

Nowell made his own break count after the interval, squirming past full-back George Furbank before Hill’s short-range effort opened up an advantage that the hosts never looked like surrendering.

Line-ups

Exeter Chiefs: Hogg; Nowell, Slade, Whitten, O’Flaherty; J Simmonds (capt), Maunder; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Gray, Hill, Ewers, Vermeulen, S Simmonds.

Replacements: Yeandle, Moon, Francis, Skinner, Kirsten, Hidalgo-Clyne, Steenson, Devoto.

Northampton Saints: Furbank; Proctor, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Tuala; Biggar, Taylor; Iyogun, Haywood, Franks, Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa, Lawes, Ludlam, Harrison (capt).

Replacements: Fish, Seville, Hill, Moon, Isiekwe, Adendorff, Mitchell, Naiyaravoro.



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