Northampton mount a remarkable comeback to finally conquer Exeter’s impenetrable stronghold.

Phil Dowson had a difficult time summarizing an extraordinary Premiership match after his Northampton team fought back to secure a 42-36 victory at Sandy Park. In a breathtaking fashion, Saints returned to the top of the Premiership table with centre Rory Hutchinson’s try in the final moments of the game. Despite trailing 26-0 after just 23 minutes, Northampton staged a remarkable recovery, including three tries from wing Ollie Sleightholme, to surpass Harlequins once again.

“It didn’t go according to plan,” said Dowson, Northampton’s director of rugby. “I’m not sure if I can put it into words. We were aware of their strong start right out of the gate, especially at home. They score more tries in the first 10 minutes than anyone else. We talked about starting fast – which we didn’t – and being 26-0 down was a disappointment.”

“However, the two tries we scored just before the break gave us some sense of balance to regroup during halftime and find a way back into the game.

“If it had been 26-0 at halftime, it would have been an uphill battle. But at 26-14, we could say ‘we’ve hurt them’ and create some belief around it.”

Alex Mitchell and Tommy Freeman, both England players, made significant contributions off the bench in the second half, playing a key role in Northampton’s transformation.

Dowson remarked, “Having Alex Mitchell, Tom Pearson, Tommy Freeman, Curtis Langdon coming off the bench adds impact. Going from European competitions to the Premiership is a nonstop, week-to-week challenge. No single player can play every minute of every game, so we need to trust our squad and give players the opportunity.”

“That’s why our bench looks like that. They bring quality and energy, which helps us achieve results like this.”

Despite a shaky start, Northampton grew into the game and ultimately secured the victory. Their win not only extended their unbeaten streak to seven matches but also put an end to Exeter’s 23-game unbeaten run at home in all competitions. George Furbank and Callum Braley also scored tries for Saints, with Fin Smith successfully converting six kicks for a bonus-point triumph.

On the other hand, Chiefs had a dominant start, with Jacques Vermeulen scoring two tries. Stu Townsend, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, and Rusi Tuima also added to the scoreline, while Henry Slade kicked four conversions and a penalty.

Despite the defeat, Exeter’s director of rugby, Rob Baxter, remained positive and described the match as an all-time Premiership classic. He said, “We knew Northampton are a good side, and we were aware it would be a tough challenge. I couldn’t be prouder of the lads than I am now.

“Did we do some good things over the 80 minutes? Yes, we did. I won’t criticize the players because they couldn’t have performed any better.”

“It was an incredible game of Premiership rugby, and I’m neither overwhelmed nor too disappointed by today’s result. We lost momentum at times, and the game could have slipped away from us completely, but we refused to let that happen. Being in the top four of the Premiership is an exciting time for us.”

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