Exeter boss Baxter relieved after edgy win over Northampton

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Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter will take more negatives than positives after a last minute try defeated Northampton 31-30 at Sandy Park.

For most of the game the champions looked destined for a fourth consecutive league defeat as battling Saints were poised to pull off a shock victory.

With 10 minutes remaining, Exeter trailed 30-17 but converted tries from Don Armand and a close range effort from Thomas Waldrom in the dying moments saw Chiefs to a fortunate win.

Alec Hepburn was Exeter’s other try-scorer and here was also a penalty try award, with Gareth Steenson kicking a penalty and a conversion. Joe Simmonds also added two crucial conversions.

Baxter said: “I wasn’t delighted with our performance, as there will be more negatives to review than positives.

“However it was a highly valuable five points and in the last 15 minutes, we showed what Exeter are all about by playing the way we did earlier in the season.

“We played with a bit more freedom and kept our focus and were rewarded with penalties and cards from line-outs close to their line.

“I predicted we would be edgy after our run of losses and so it proved as we made a number of half-breaks only for us the drop the ball as if our hands stopped working.

“That’s been tale of the last few weeks and it’s almost as if we are getting scared of losing the title. We are creating pressure but not converting it and we are trying to do D instead of doing ABC first.”

Northampton were most unlucky losers for they were the better side for most of the game. They had more creativity than their hosts with Rob Horne, Harry Mallinder and Ben Foden scoring tries, all of which Piers Francis converted. Francis (two) and Stephen Myler both added penalties.

Their interim head coach, Alan Dickens, found the last minute defeat hard to swallow.

He said: “It’s a positive performance but we are on the wrong end of the result.

“We knew we had a chance coming down here with a game plan and for 70 minutes we were in control.

“Woodburn then makes a fantastic break to set up a try and get the crowd behind them with a bit of pressure being placed on the referee so a few late calls go against us, which proved decisive.

“Rob Horne was fantastic, his combination with Luther Burrell was pretty clinical but we just couldn’t get one final opportunity in the second half to take the game away from them.”

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