B&I Lions injury scare in Exeter win
PREMIERSHIP MATCH REPORT: Exeter Chiefs forward Sam Simmonds has dealt the British and Irish Lions an injury scare ahead of their South Africa tour.
The Chiefs No.8 and England international went off during the second-half of Exeter’s thrilling 29-26 Premiership victory over 14-man Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens.
He had ice applied to his ankle, while Simmonds’ fellow Lions squad member – Northampton and Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar – also went off in the second half after taking a knock to his chest, although that was thought to be purely precautionary.
Exeter Rugby Director Rob Baxter said: “He [Simmonds] has had a rolled ankle from a few weeks ago, which has been fine. I did not wait to see if he wanted to carry on.
“We were thinking of making a back row substitution anyway.
“There will be an assessment over the next couple of hours.
“We didn’t take him off because it was a clear: ‘That’s it, he’s done’. I thought let’s get on with things and keep the momentum in the game.
“Right here and now I don’t want to make a call on how bad it is. It could be very minor.
“It is one of those things. We will take everything into account, and if the right thing medically is for him not to play against Sale [next Saturday], then he won’t.
“People are either fit or they are not. Sam likes playing. He does not think rest suits him, but if his ankle isn’t right, it isn’t right.
“He won’t want to be cotton wool-wrapped for the Lions, and we don’t know the extent of the injury at all.”
The Lions face Japan at Murrayfield in 20 days, before heading to South Africa for an eight-match trip highlighted by three Tests against the reigning world champions.
Premiership title holders Exeter wiped out an 18-point deficit to prevail, with Saints playing with 14 men for more than an hour after lock David Ribbans was sent off.
Exeter’s bonus-point triumph – a sixth successive Premiership win – means they need a point against Sandy Park visitors and title rivals Sale Sharks next Saturday for a home semifinal.
It is odds-on that Sale would then return to Devon in the play-offs a week later.
Reflecting on Exeter’s first-half troubles in the east midlands, Baxter said: “It was purely a mental thing.
“It is important to address how we turned up today and acknowledge any problems.”
Exeter, who did not lead until the 75th minute, triumphed through tries by Sam Skinner, Stuart Hogg, Stu Townsend and Ollie Devoto, with skipper Joe Simmonds booting three conversions and a late penalty.
Ribbans was dismissed for direct shoulder contact to the head of Exeter hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, leaving Northampton a man down for 66 minutes.
But they pushed Exeter all the way in front of a 4,000 crowd through centre Rory Hutchinson’s try double, a Mike Haywood touchdown and 11 points from Biggar that included a drop-goal.
Saints Rugby Director Chris Boyd said: “I was so proud of our character and resolve and determination to work with 14 men.
“We know what you have to do against Exeter, and in the second half we could not quite slow the ball down and away they went.
“But it was a tremendous effort by our guys. The lads stuck to it as long as they physically could.”
For Northampton Saints
Tries: Hutchinson 2, Haywood
Pens: Biggar 2
For Exeter Chiefs
Tries: Skinner, Hogg, Townsend, Devoto
Cons: Simmonds 3
Red card: David Ribbans (Northampton Saints, 14 – foul play, should to the head of an opponent)
Northampton Saints: 15 Tommy Freeman, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom James, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam (co-captain), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller (co-captain).
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Alex Coles, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Fraser Dingwall.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Facundo Cordero, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Ollie Devoto.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Sara Cox & Dean Richards.
TMO: Claire Hodnett
Sources: PA & RugbyPass