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Exeter Chiefs will be bidding to reach the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals for the first time on Sunday but will need to see off fellow English side Northampton Saints at Sandy Park in order to secure a last four berth.
Exeter have reached the quarter-final stage of the Heineken Champions Cup once previously, losing out to Wasps and Jimmy Gopperth with the final kick of the game at the Ricoh Arena in 2016.
They enjoyed a smooth passage into the last eight this time around, topping Pool 2 with 27 points whereas Northampton had to battle back from consecutive defeats to Leinster Rugby to secure a best runners-up spot and the No.7 seeding.
Sunday’s match from Sandy Park gets under way at 17:30 (UK and Irish time) on Sunday and is available to watch on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS.
Exeter Chiefs: 1st, Pool 2, 27 points
Northampton Saints: 2nd, Pool 1, 19 points
2019-20 points scorers
Exeter Chiefs: Joe Simmonds (60), Sam Simmonds (30), Four players (10)
Northampton Saints: Dan Biggar (68), Four players (10)
The Premiership play-off ⚔️
But who will clinch it?? pic.twitter.com/PXRQdqCbHR
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) September 18, 2020
- Rob Baxter (Exeter):The biggest mistake you can make in a situation like this is to look around at a team who maybe are struggling and think the job is done, because it’s simply never that easy. Northampton can come to our place and can throw everything at us, because everything they gain will be an advantage and everything they get, that will give them energy.
- Northampton have reached the quarter-finals on eight previous occasions, winning both home games but losing five of their six away games with a famous 7-6 victory against Biarritz in 2007 their only win on the road to date.
- Exeter Chiefs are unbeaten in their last six games (W5, D1), their best run in European competition since winning six in a row in the Challenge Cup in 2014/15. They’ve never gone seven games without defeat in Europe.
- Northampton won their last away game in the Heineken Champions Cup, however, they’ve not won consecutive games on the road in the competition since the 2014/15 pool stage when they beat Benetton and the Ospreys.
- Exeter scored 10 tries from first-phase possession in the pool stage, more than any other side, while Northampton have scored the third most (8, level with four clubs).
- Only Leinster (64) have conceded fewer turnovers this season than Exeter (65, level with Munster), however, the Chiefs have won the fewest turnovers of any side in the competition (25).
- Dan Biggar has averaged 13.6 points per game, the most of anyone to play more than once in the pool stage, and only Ulster’s John Cooney (71) has scored more points than Biggar (68).
- Joe Simmonds has slotted 93% (25/27) of his place kicks, the best rate of any player to attempt more than five kicks at goal this season.
- Of players to make at least three appearances in the pool stage, Taqele Naiyaravoro topped the charts for offloads (3.3) and defenders beaten (6.5, level with Virimi Vakatawa) per game.
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Exeter Chiefs will feature in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals for the first time after defeating a dogged Northampton Saints side 38-15 at Sandy Park on Sunday evening.
The Saints kept in touch throughout and were only four points down at the break but three tries from Exeter in the second period ensured they would run out convincing winners.
Northampton led early through a Dan Biggar penalty kick but Exeter would soon take a lead they would keep for the remainder of the match.
The Saints forced an initial turnover but Exeter snatched the ball at the scrum and as ball was played wide, Henry Slade weaved in and out of two Northampton defenders before handing to Jack Maunder who wriggled over the try line.
That is @ExeterChiefs rugby!
The forwards win a scrum against the head with a massive shove, then Henry Slade adds a bit of class in the back-line 😍
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) September 20, 2020
Jacques Vermeulen then powered over of the first of his two tries on the afternoon but Northampton captain Tiemana Harrison helped the visitors get within four at the break after diving over the try line following a powerful driving maul.
The hosts would take over in the second period and soon moved further clear through the the slippery Jack Nowell who slalomed past two or three Northampton defenders and was somehow able to dot down at the posts.
They soon added a fourth try after a looping line-out allowed Jonny Hill to reach around and he was strong enough to reach over and grab another for the hosts.
"A try all of his own making for the comeback king!"
Jack Nowell is just a joy to watch!
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) September 20, 2020
Northampton weren’t finished with and after an efficient line-out, Fraser Dingwall hit a tremendous line, beating two men and scoring in the corner.
The scoring was ended on 78 minutes as Vermeulen burst through the tiring Northampton line, with replacement fly-half Gareth Steenson making the tricky conversion.
Exeter will now face Toulouse at Sandy Park next Saturday in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals.