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Northampton deny Exeter top spot

A Mike Haywood try and a JJ Hanrahan penalty proved enough for Northampton Saints to claim a scrappy 8-3 Premiership win over Exeter Chiefs on Friday.

Second-placed Exeter had not lost since the opening day of the season but were kept at bay by the Northampton defence, which had shipped 25 points in a loss to lowly London Irish on Boxing Day.

Haywood opened the scoring in the 17th minute when he drove over for the game's only  try.

Fly-half Hanrahan missed the subsequent conversion but extended the lead to eight points in the 31st minute with a three-pointer.

The number 10 was off target with the boot two minutes into the second half before Exeter finally got on the scoreboard seven minutes from time.

Hanrahan's opposite number Gareth Steenson slotted over a penalty to cut the gap to five points, but the Chiefs could not complete the comeback as Northampton held firm.