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Northampton Saints head coach Jim Mallinder has praised Dylan Hartley after his skipper’s performance in their 38-11 thrashing of Exeter Chiefs on Saturday.
Much had been made about Mallinder’s decision regarding the captaincy at Franklin’s Gardens ahead of the new Aviva Premiership campaign, with the Saints boss deciding to stick with Hartley despite his disastrous Grand Final last season.
The England international was sent off against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham for abusive language and was forced to watch from the sidelines as his side fell short of winning another piece of silverware.
Hartley now looks like a man on a mission and he scored Northampton’s first try against Exeter to set up a fine bonus-point victory for the Saints.
Mallinder was delighted with his captain’s performance and feels the disappointment of the Grand Final last year is now behind the hooker.
He said: “I thought he was magnificent today. Dylan put in a determined performance today. There has been a lot of talk about him after what happened, but all he can do is play and show what he can do on the field.
“At half-time when we looked at the stats it showed he had covered the most metres in our team.
“He has worked very hard during the summer, he has had no pre-season games, so to come in and play like that shows what sort of player he is. He is our leader because he plays and leads by example.”
Saturday’s victory also saw the introduction of new signings George North and Alex Corbisiero in the starting line-up, with Wales winger North setting up the bonus-point sealing try for George Pisi.