Rampant Chiefs hammer Saints to go 11 points clear, Wasps thrash Gloucester
Rampant Exeter Chiefs hammered sorry Northampton Saints 35-14 to go 11 points clear at the top of the Premiership and Wasps thrashed Gloucester to go second.
Exeter headed to Franklin's Gardens smarting from back-to-back European Champions Cup defeats to Leinster after winning their previous nine matches, but normal service was resumed on Saturday.
The champions inflicted more misery on struggling Northampton, who have now lost 11 of their last 12 matches to remain third bottom of the table as the club search for a replacement for sacked director of rugby Jim Mallinder.
Will Chudley ran onto his own kick over the top to touch down for a superb solo try which put the Chiefs 8-0 up, but Northampton were rewarded for their endeavour when Ahsee Tuala went over.
Saints were only 11-7 down at half-time, but Exeter bossed the second half, Sam Simmonds, Thomas Waldrom and Jack Yeandle crossing to grab a bonus point, with Gareth Steenson scoring 11 points from the tee.
Cobus Reinach grabbed a second try for the Saints late on, but the damage had already been done by an Exeter side that will celebrate Christmas with a commanding lead.
Gloucester started the day in second spot, but were replaced by their opponents Wasps after Dai Young's men blew the Cherry and Whites away at the Ricoh Arena.
Wasps were 17-15 down at the interval following scores from Willie Heinz, Mark Atkinson and Tom Marshall, but Christian Wade completed a double with one of four second-half tries and Danny Cipriani scored 19 points with the boot in an emphatic fifth Premiership win in a row.
Sale Sharks scored 26 unanswered points in the second half to beat Bath 32-9, while Newcastle Falcons saw off Harlequins 11-10.