Exeter faces Saracens in Final
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Joe Simmonds ran the show as Exeter Chiefs blew Northampton Saints away at Sandy Park to book a date with Saracens in next weekend’s Final.
In a pulsating first half, the Chiefs took an early 14-0 lead thanks to converted tries from Harry Williams and Simmonds, but Northampton fought back when they were awarded a penalty try, with Exeter’s Tom O’Flaherty given a yellow card, and Ahsee Tuala went over.
After the break, Saints responded well with two tries in three minutes from Dave Dennis and O’Flaherty before Sam Simmonds and Jonny Hill rounded the game out with tries in the final ten minutes.
Click here for tickets to the biggest game of the season – the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final on 1 June. Tickets from £35 for adults and £15 for juniors
Exeter’s victory sends them to their fourth successive Premiership Rugby Final where they will be hoping to avenge last season’s 27-10 defeat to Saracens at Twickenham.
The game began in cagey fashion as regular-season table-toppers Exeter dominated possession but Northampton managed to withstand the pressure with some resolute defending.
This momentum finally told in the 16th minute when tighthead prop Williams powerfully rolled his way through the tackle and over from short range.
Minutes later, Joe Simmonds added a second when he was found in space and dummied his way through the Saints defence to score by the posts.
The visitors fought back before half-time when they were first awarded a penalty try by the television match official with Exeter winger O’Flaherty given a yellow card for coming in from the side, preventing James Fish going over cleanly, before Tuala reduced the arrears to two points when he was well found by Rory Hutchinson’s acrobatic flick out of the back of his hand.
Saints could have led at the break, too, but for Cobus Reinach dropping the ball when he was in to score.
Northampton looked to pick up where they left off at the start of the second half but a three-minute blitz put the hosts in control as lock Dennis powered over before a superb driving solo effort from O’Flaherty added further points.
As resolute in defence as they proved at times, Northampton could not get the ball back and Exeter confirmed the result with their fifth try when replacement Sam Simmonds was confirmed to have grounded the ball over the line by the TMO during another sustained attack.
There was just time for Hill to put the cherry on the cake with a sixth try, continuing Exeter’s run of only two defeats at Sandy Park since February 2018 and they can now look forward to a trip to Twickenham.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Williams, J Simmonds, Dennis, O’Flaherty, S Simmonds, Hill
Cons: J Simmonds 6
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Penalty try, Tuala
Cons: Penalty try does not require a conversion
Yellow card: Tom O’Flaherty (Exeter Chiefs, 27 – cynical foul, collapsing the maul)
RECAP: Exeter v Northampton
Did you miss any of the action? Recap all the drama here!
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Jack Nowell, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Sam Hill.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison (captain), 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 James Fish, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Tom Wood, 22 Alex Mitchell, 23 Luther Burrell.
Date: Saturday, May 25
Venue: Sandy Park, England
Kick-off: 16.30 (15.30 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Tom Foley & Jack Makepeace.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.