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Ali Hepher says half-time team talk was the difference for Exeter

Exeter's assistant coach Ali Hepher explained how the half-time team talk had made the difference as the Chiefs came back from a 12-3 interval deficit to run out deserved winners 20-12 winners against Northampton.

Tries from Ken Pisi and Lee Dickson - one converted by J.J.Hanrahan - had built up that half-time advantage but Saints were kept scoreless in the second half as a try by Olly Woodburn and five penalties by Gareth Steenson sent Northampton away without even a bonus point.

"We looked as though we weren't enjoying our rugby in the first half as we were frightened to make mistakes," Hepher said.

"We had a quiet word at half-time and this freed us up. We created a different and positive mindset and we said that we needed to be positive and not afraid of errors.

"We took on the message and turned the screw, we had a bit of self-belief."

Exeter surprisingly took the decision to take off top try-scoring No 8 Thomas Waldrom midway through the second half and replace him with Julian Salvi.

Hepher explained the decision, saying: "We struggled at the breakdown, Thomas wasn't injured and Julian is one of the best in that area in the Premiership."

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder felt that his side had not had the rub of the green.

"It's frustrating, we didn't get the bounce of the ball and a few refereeing decisions went against us. I thought we scored a good try right at the end, which would have got us a bonus point, and the officials were wrong to disallow it," he said.

"I thought we were very good in the first half as we took our opportunities but our second-half performance was poor as we coughed up possession and kicked away too much ball."

"The Six Nations period was a good one for us as we've won more than we've lost and hopefully we'll be able to integrate our international players back into our side for a key game against Harlequins next week."

Exeter now face a top-of-the-table clash at Saracens next weekend with Hepher looking forward to the challenge.

"We can't afford to have a poor half against them but we did win up there last year," he said.

"We are now top but we are taking it by stage by stage. First we want to be in the top six for Europe, then top four for play-offs and then it would be great to get a home semi-final if we are in the top two. We are just attempting to knock off the targets, one by one."

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