A disastrous return to rugby from the enforced break for Northampton means that Exeter come into this as the resounding favourites.
Indeed, a run of six defeats from seven matches so far is abysmal, as that sole victory came over one of the smaller clubs in England’s top division, London Irish. Interestingly, they went in at the break all square at Irish too, and a lack of confidence and go forward seems to be crippling them at the minute.
By contrast, Rob Baxters’ men have picked up where they left off from before the break. They’ve won six of their seven matches, as their sole defeat came against Saracens when playing a second-string side.
That run includes a 22-19 at Franklin Gardens earlier this month, although even then the Cheifs certainly didn’t have their full team out, and back at Sandy Park with a full-strength side, it should be a very different story.
Exeter -21 Point Handicap
Chris Boyd’s men look in disarray and with a record of just W2-L10 from their last 12 matches dating back to late January, it isn’t going to get any easier for them this weekend.
Moreover, considering their two hardest fixtures in that time came at Exeter themselves and Bristol, losing each of them by 50 and 37 points respectively, another trashing could be on the cards.
Moreover, prior to that 57-7 trouncing, Exeter gave their visitors here at the start of the year, the last meeting between the two sides came in the Premiership semi-final playoffs last season, with that one following a very similar scoreline (42-12).
To further the argument for this looking like a very one sided encounter, we only have to look at how the Saints went against their group winners Leinster.
Indeed, they lost both home and away by convincing 27 and 29 points point margins and we’d be surprised if the Chiefs weren’t up to the task of putting on a similarly dominant display.
Baxter’s charges remain one of the three sides yet to lose in this tournament this year (along with Leinster and Toulouse), and this should be a routine victory to put them in their first ever semi-final in Europe’s top tier competition.