How Saints silenced their critics
Northampton Saints skipper Dylan Hartley admitted his side had answered their critics in emphatic fashion.
Northampton Saints skipper Dylan Hartley admitted his side had answered their critics in emphatic fashion after scoring three tries and winning for the first time in three Premiership fixtures with victory over Exeter.
Ken Pisi, Soane Tonga'uiha and GJ van Velze scored the crucial touchdowns for Northampton, with Stephen Myler adding 15 points from the boot.
Gareth Steenson had kept Exeter within touching distance of Northampton with 12 points of his own, while a late Sireli Naqelevuki score had momentarily given the Chiefs hope of a fightback.
But Hartley believes the Saints' away-day win at Sandy Park, which lifts them into the play-off places, will see Northampton kick-on in the New Year and challenge for Premiership silverware in May.
"We have heard all about the criticism but we haven't been listening to it," said Hartley.
"We're pretty focused on the second-half of the season, it's a New Year and a new start, we've had a hard December and played a lot of good teams and so this is the perfect way to get our season back on track.
"We knew Exeter was only just below us in the league and we knew it would be tough coming here, we've put our position on the line and the win has moved us back up that table.
"It's always important to control the breakdown and that's exactly what we did, it's a tough game and we needed to play good away rugby.
"Our driving maul was strong again and so we're very happy. It was a bold decision to go for the corner twice rather than the posts, it was crucial because we knew Exeter were just one point below us in the league.
"We didn't want to give them anything and credit to the team, we backed ourselves and we got the scores."
Fellow England international Ben Foden, who created the opening score for Ken Pisi, insists the best is still to come from Northampton this season.
"We like going to away grounds against teams with good records and spoiling the party," he said. "We needed a reaction after losing our last two games in the league and we got one.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game, they're unbeaten here this season and so we needed to produce a special performance, which we achieved.
"We'll take a lot of confidence from that and there's still a feeling we can do special things this season."
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter said: "I don't think we were far off winning the game.
"It wouldn't have taken any more physical endeavour from us, it would have just taken a little more mental sharpness and a little better control of certain parts of the game.
"You are always disappointed when you lose a game but the bigger disappointment was that we were in it for large parts but I am not sure that we appreciated the pressure that we probably had on Northampton for large periods of the game.
"Northampton had a three or four-point lead on a number of occasions with plenty of time on the clock.
"We were the team that was playing and being able to control possession for periods but we almost played until we made the error."