Baxter glad to see plenty of Exeter improvement at Saints but bemoans errors which proved costly
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter was able to take many positives from the narrow defeat at Franklin's Gardens, with Phil Dollman and Matt Jess both dotting down to run their hosts close.
"I am pretty pleased," he said. "On the two previous occasions here we have been comfortably defeated.
"Last season we lost 33-3 but today we were in the lead at half-time and were competitive to the end.
"We were better here today than we have ever been before, which is great for us – three seasons in and we put in our best performance at this ground.
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"We were leading at half-time, and actually building pressure on Northampton, which is something they are probably not used to from Exeter at Franklin's Gardens.
"There were some big things from us, I was really pleased with a lot of parts of the game, but from a coaching perspective, I am also looking forward to sitting down and looking at some of the errors we made and knowing we can get a bit better straight away."
Baxter was very pleased to see Jess race over close to time for his third try in two matches, and even then the Chiefs went looking for a match-winning score, rather than just settling for the bonus point.
"With the effort we put into the game and the problems we caused Northampton, it would have been horrendous not to come away with something," admitted Baxter.
"It wouldn't have made our performance any better or any worse, but we deserved something out of the game, and it was just nice to get that late try and be the team in possession at the end.
"It was exciting – I love watching our team play."
Northampton coach Jim Mallinder also saw plenty of room for improvement from his side despite the second-half tries from Luther Burrell and Dylan Hartley which eventually saw them home.
"Our performance was a mixed bag," Mallinder said.
"We were good in the first 20 minutes scoring two good tries but then we relaxed, kicked loosely and going down to 14 men put us under some considerable pressure.
"However we kept our cool in the first ten minutes of the second half and then our forwards went on to dominate."
Northampton would have won more comfortably had Ryan Lamb not been off form with his goal kicking, and the outside half was substituted for Stephen Myler early in the second half.
Mallinder said: "Stephen [Myler] is a steady head and controlled the game when he came on and had a big hand in our crucial try."
The Saints coach also paid tribute to skipper Hartley, who was man of the match after picking up his second try in as many fixtures.
"Dylan stands out with his attitude, he doesn't have a sloppy session he is always the first there and the hardest there," he said.
Hartley himself was happy to get past a stubborn Exeter side. "Today when it got tough we returned to the driving maul and hammered home our advantage," he said.