Exeter maintained their grip at the Aviva Premiership summit with a bonus point victory as they sent Northampton crashing to their 11th defeat in 12 games in all competitions.
It was the first Premiership game for the Saints since they sacked director of rugby Jim Mallinder a week and a half ago.
The Chiefs scored tries from scrum-half Will Chudley, number eight Sam Simmonds and replacements Thomas Waldrom and Jack Yeandle, with fly-half Gareth Steenson booting three penalties and three conversions.
Saints battled hard but they were undone in the second-half.They scored tries from wing Ahsee Tuala in the first half and replacement Cobus Reinach towards the end of the game, with fly-half Piers Francis converting both.
England defence coach Paul Gustard was at Franklin’s Gardens after working with Northampton last week but, following an initial thrust, the Saints were fortunate to only be one unconverted try and a penalty down by 20 minutes.
Steenson booted a 25 metre penalty before Chudley’s clever pick-and-kick over the Saints’ defence plus a kind bounce saw him race in for Exeter’s touchdown.
Only a tremendous Harry Mallinder tackle on wing Olly Woodburn in the right corner and a grubber kick to the goal area that just ran too far for Exeter prevented the Chiefs from roaring ahead.
But Northampton dug in and came up with a tremendous score when a move down the left saw centre Rob Horne feed Tuala for a try that Francis converted.
Steenson added a second penalty when Northampton failed to roll away at a ruck but the Saints had a golden chance before the break to take the lead when they had Exeter under pressure with a scrum on the visitor’s line but lost the ball in midfield from the set-piece and saw the Chiefs boot the ball downfield to clear.
Northampton’s Achilles’ heel was their lack of line-out possession from skipper Dylan Hartley’s throwing as the ball was either lost or the jumpers struggled to cling…