Saints came off second best at Sandy Park, despite outscoring Exeter three tries to none in the last 50 minutes of the game. Lee Dickson's second half pair added to Alex Waller's effort just before half-time, but by then the damage had been done as Exeter racked up 22 points in the opening 27 minutes.
The LV= Cup reverse at Exeter combined with Bath's bonus point win in Gloucester to send the Saints out of the Anglo-Welsh competition. However there is still everything to play for in Aviva Premiership Rugby, with the Saints just one point off the play-off places with nine games to play.
Three of the next four matches are on home turf, starting with next Saturday's game with Gloucester, and although the Saints boss could not hide his disappointment at how things panned out in the south west, he reiterated the determination to reach the play-offs for a fourth successive season.
"It was disappointing for us against Exeter," he told BBC Radio Northampton after the Sandy Park clash. "You want to come down and you want to win. But at places like this you have to match teams and in the first half we were still in the hotel, still on the bus, whatever you might say. They were more up for it than us and we slipped off too many tackles.
"I was pleased with how we came back from it in the second half. We had more intent, especially in defence, and were sharper in attack, but it was too late for us.
"We're in an unusual position for us now, which is just being in the one competition. It's not something we've been used to over the last few years, we've been used to fighting on several fronts. And now we've got a clear focus, and that's got to be our only focus.
"Gloucester will be equally as disappointed as us after their result this weekend, so it's going to be a massive game. Over the past couple of weeks we've made changes which have freshened things up, but next week it's full on for the first of some big league games which will help decide where we finish up.
"We'll now be putting every bit of energy we've got into getting a top four finish."
Your support will help make the difference against the Cherry and Whites in next Saturday's game, which kicks off at 12:30pm. Tickets can be booked now by CLICKING HERE and following the straightforward instructions.