- Exeter beat Bath for first time since 1978
- Northampton Saints book place in the final with 26-7 win over Saracens
Photo: Pinnacle Photo Agency
Having finally beaten Bath Rugby at the eleventh attempt in last weekend’s LV= Cup semi-final, Exeter Chiefs are now one win away from claiming their first piece of silverware as a Premiership club.
Standing in their path and threatening to ruin the Sandy Park party on Sunday (March 16) are 2010 champions Northampton Saints, who saw off Saracens to make it through to their third final of the cross-border competition in five years.
These two sides have met once before in a domestic cup final, Saints coming out on top, 24-13, in the 2008 edition of the old EDF Energy National Trophy competition.
Of the participants at Twickenham that day, only seven players can be found in the present first-team squads: James Hanks, Brett Sturgess and Tom Johnson for Exeter and Dylan Hartley, Paul Diggin, Mark Easter and Stephen Myler for Saints.
Injuries, international call-ups and the vagaries of selection mean that few, if any, of the group of seven survivors will feature on Sunday.
Since winning promotion to the Premiership, Exeter have won two and lost seven of their nine meetings with the Saints.
This season Saints kicked off their Premiership campaign with a 38-11 win over Rob Baxter’s men at Franklin’s Gardens and followed that up with the narrowest of victories (16-17) in Round 13.
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Of the two finalists, Northampton’s route to the final was the more straightforward of the two. Saints opened up with big wins over Gloucester and London Irish before surviving everything that Newport Gwent Dragons and the elements could throw at them to win 34-16 at a rain-sodden Rodney Parade in Round 3.
A narrower victory (20-16) over Saracens in the final round of pool fixtures secured a home semi-final against the same opposition. A hat-trick from George Pisi saw Saints come from behind to win the tie, 26-7, and maintain their record of reaching a major final in each of director of rugby Jim Mallinder’s seven seasons in charge.
Before laying their Bath bogey to rest with a tense 22-19 semi-final win at The Rec, Exeter qualified for the knockout stages of the competition with a won three, lost one record – their only slip-up coming against Bath in Round 2.
Either side of that defeat they downed reigning champions Harlequins (19-5) and Ospreys (36-22) before going on to win 42-3 at Worcester in the final round of pool action.