Bath Rugby battle back to draw at Sandy Park

Bath Rugby battled to a hard-fought draw at Sandy Park this afternoon, holding Exeter Chiefs to 12-12 at the final whistle, maintaining their unbeaten record over the West Country rivals.

Whilst the sun shone for the game, the torrential rain that had been pouring down beforehand made for slippery conditions and a greasy ball, with the wind also playing its part in a true battle of attrition.

Exeter, who went into the game having not lost at home in the Aviva Premiership all season, drew first blood with a penalty from Gareth Steenson 12 minutes in.

The visitors were quick to respond however, keen to keep the Chiefs at bay. Michael Claassens broke from the back of the maul and fed the ball wide. Stephen Donald danced with the touchline to keep the ball in play, before passing back inside over the heads of the Exeter defenders to Claassens who dived over the line in the corner. Kicking into the wind, Donald was narrowly short with the conversion, but Bath had their noses in front.

Both sides looked to try and find holes in their oppositions defence, but both held firm. The Bath scrum in particular was holding strong, winning penalties and enabling the visitors to relieve the pressure Exeter were putting them under at times in the 22.

Exeter were to go in marginally on top however, after Bath were found to be offside. Steenson made no mistake with the kick, and took his side into the lead at half-time.

Half-time - Exeter Chiefs 6 – Bath Rugby 5.

The home side came flying out of the blocks in the second half, upping the tempo and dominating both in possession and territory and Steenson added two further penalties to the Exeter tally within 50 minutes.

Bath worked hard to try and hit back and were building good phases of possession but small handling errors with the greasy ball crept in at vital moments and allowed Exeter to clear.

As the game wore on, so the conditions worsened, and whilst both sides kept slogging away, their efforts were nullified by stern defences on either side.

With just seven points in it going into the final ten minutes, Bath had all to play for and maintained their level of effort and character in trying to keep Exeter at bay.

A penalty was awarded to the visitors with just five minutes remaining and a lovely touch-finder from replacement fly-half Tom Heathcote saw them with a lineout 5m out from the try line. The lineout was secured, a huge driving maul set up and when Exeter illegally stopped it, referee David Rose ran between the posts and signalled the penalty try. Heathcote held his nerve to nail the conversion and bring the scores level and secure the draw.

Final score – Exeter Chiefs 12 – Bath Rugby 12.

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