Kahn Fotuali'i came off the bench to make his Saints debut against Exeter © Getty Images
Rugby News SAINTS 38 EXETER 11: Hartley hails Saints character as foundation of opening day win
Dylan Hartley said that the Aviva Premiership Round 1 bonus point win over Exeter Chiefs was built on an excellent performance in defence by all 23 players.
Hartley got on the score sheet with just two minutes on the clock, the first of four tries run in by the Saints in the opening 37 minutes. Ken Pisi was next over the whitewash at the end of a scintillating move, followed by Tom Wood, who strolled over after Ben Foden had recovered his own Garryowen.
And when George Pisi followed his brother by opening his account with three minutes left in the half Saints went into the break 31-6 up and with the extra point in the bag.
Samu Manoa added the fifth try late in the second half, but this score came after a half-hour of relentless Exeter pressure, which founded time and again on resolute home tackling, something which the skipper said was the foundation of the final result.
“If you look at the first half we scored four tries off a lot of turnover ball which came from solid defence,” Hartley told SaintsTV. “Then in the second half we were on the back foot in defence.
“We can pat ourselves on the back for the first half, but we’ve got to play for 80 minutes. One of our Achilles’ heels last year was playing one outstanding half and then not finishing the game off. A good team like Exeter isn’t going to go away, so there’s a lot to work on.
“However it’s the first game of the season and a pretty good way to start.”
One of the Saints’ five debutants took home the Travis Perkins man of the match magnum of red wine, but whereas George North, Alex Corbisiero and Kahn Fotuali’i have been the centre of media attention this summer is was number eight Sam Dickinson who was chosen as the day’s stand-out players.
The 29-year-old was making his first team bow 12 months after he would have anticipated, a year in which he fought back from injury to put himself into contention.
“Sam was outstanding,” Hartley added. “He’s come from the Championship and spent the year in rehab. But he’s back and today proved the strength of our squad. We’ve got the headliners like Corbs and George North, but it’s a squad game and throughout the season we’re going to have to call upon that squad.”
The Saints are on the road for the next fortnight, returning to Franklin’s Gardens on Friday, September 27th for the visit of Sale Sharks. Tickets are available now for that game, and for the next half-dozen home games. To book online just CLICK HERE and follow the straightforward instructions.