Reinach at it again as Saints stun Premiership leaders
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Cobus Reinach scored a vital intercept try for the second straight week as he helped Northampton Saints to a 31-28 victory over Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs.
In a game that was back and forth at Franklin’s Gardens, Saints twice resisted ferocious fightbacks from the 2016/17 champions to pick up all five points.
Northampton made a sensational start with a try inside two minutes. It came from a counter-attack as Tom Collins burst through a gap raced forwards before finding Dan Biggar. The Welshman offloaded into Piers Francis who then sprinted through for the try.
Biggar converted but five minutes later Saints lost Francis to injury.
It did not slow them, a turnover from Courtney Lawes eventually leading to Biggar stretching over from close range.
His conversion extended the lead to 14-0, but Chiefs are not Premiership leaders for nothing.
They responded with some huge pressure, squeezing the Northampton scrum and eventually earning a penalty try.
What a game that was! 👍
Round 11 of #GallagherPrem is off to a flyer with that thriller at Franklin’s Gardens
Three more games tomorrow including Big Game 11 from Twickenham! 👀 pic.twitter.com/x8asEMRg9V
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) December 28, 2018
By 29 minutes they were level, this time Santiago Cordero going over out wide after more pressure in the Saints 22.
The home side responded well, replacement Fraser Dingwall, on for Francis, showing quick feet to cut inside Ian Whitten and race under the posts.
However Saints lost captain Alex Waller to a yellow card shortly before half-time as their scrum continued to bleed penalties. Dingwall continued to impress with a desperate try-saving tackle on Ollie Devoto that preserved a 21-14 lead at the break.
Exeter still had an extra man going into the second half, and they took full advantage as Ben Moon forced his way over from close range.
But as they had the first time Chiefs levelled, Saints again struck next, Reinach showing his opportunistic side as he picked off a pass by Nic White to race in for the bonus-point try.
Exeter’s cause was not helped when Luke Cowan-Dickie was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Lawes, allowing Biggar to slot a penalty and stretch the lead to 31-21.
Exeter kept battling, and eventually earned two bonus points thanks to a try from Matt Kvesic in the final play, but it was Northampton’s evening.
Tries: Francis, Biggar, Dingwall, Reinach
Cons: Biggar 4
Tries: Penalty Try, Cordero, Moon, Kvesic
Cons: Steenson 3
Yellow cards: Alex Waller (Northampton Saints, 35); Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 61)
Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Piers Francis, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Reece Marshall, 1 Alex Waller (co-captain).
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Heinrich Brüssow, 22 Alex Mitchell, 23 Fraser Dingwall.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Joe Simmonds, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Sean Lonsdale, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Nic White, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Phil Dollman.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Steve Lee & Wayne Falla.
TMO: Keith Lewis.