Two tries from outstanding debutant Peter Stringer helped Bath Rugby maintain their unbeaten record over West Country rivals Exeter Chiefs this afternoon, leading to a powerful 16-6 victory in the third round of the LV= Cup.
Bath put early pressure on the Chiefs, and soon had a 3-0 lead after a successful penalty from Tom Heathcote. Henry Slade equalised for the visitors on seven minutes, and the game quickly became a close, edgy affair.
As the two sides scrapped for territory and possession, it was Exeter who were starting to find their feet and test the Bath defence. They looked to have hammered their way over the Bath line but for referee Nigel Owens to rule there was a forward pass in the build-up. Another penalty from Slade just after 20 minutes gave Exeter the lead, and it looked as if they would continue to take advantage of their possession, but the relentless Bath defence refused to fall.
Heathcote levelled the scores once more after Bath were awarded a penalty after a big shove at the scrum, and, with Ben Williams and Mark McMillan being replaced by Sam Vesty and Stringer respectively, so the scores remained until half-time.
Bath came flying out of the blocks at the start of the second-half, and were soon heaping pressure on Exeter in their 22. A couple of huge drives from the forwards came close to being tries, but the visitors managed to just do enough to hold them up.
Instead, an ambitious attack from deep led to the first try of the game, and the first for new man Stringer. Slick hands from Jack Cuthbert fed Richard Lane out wide on the wing. The Academy flyer put in a huge side-step around the Exeter defence, and the resulting ruck saw the home side awarded a penalty. Kickable though it was, Heathcote signalled the hosts' intent by sending it to the corner to set-up the five metre lineout. Ross Batty, returning from injury and having replaced Rob Webber at half-time, found his man and a driving maul powered towards the try line. They couldn't get the ball down, but Stringer was on hand to snipe the ball from the back and dart over in the corner. 11-6.
There was a sizeable shift in momentum, with Bath having the majority of possession now. Six minutes on, and the Rec faithful were out of their seats once more, as Stringer went over for his second.
Another kickable penalty was instead dispatched to the corner by Heathcote, and with the lineout once more functioning well, the ball was secured. The super-sharp Irishman saw the blindside gap, picked the ball up from the back of the maul and flew over in the opposite corner. 16-6.
The Chiefs were never going to give up, though, and going into the closing stages of the game the tension grew as they fought back. They shifted the ball left and right, doing all try could to breach the defence, but Bath weren't shifting and as replacement Kane Palma-Newport turned the ball over in midfield and then won the penalty, it was just left to Heathcote to send the ball sailing out once more to end the game and seal another Derby Day victory for Bath.
Final score – Bath Rugby 16 – Exeter Chief 6.