Confidence is high in the Bath Rugby camp heading into Round 12 of the Gallagher Premiership following three consecutive wins in the competition.
A shed load of resilience and spirit contributed to the Blue, Black and White’s 23-22 victory over Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens last time out, with a courageous defensive effort in the closing stages displaying the players’ pride in representing the Club and the city.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Stuart Hooper’s men who had to battle against an electric Saints attack in the first half. The home side raced into a 19-3 lead before the Bath comeback began on the stroke of half-time.
Saints had a Lewis Ludlam try disallowed for knock on and after they increased the score to 22-10, Bath rallied. First through two Priestland penalties and then through Mercer who crossed for a fantastic team effort.
Priestland’s extras turned the match on its head for the first time and Bath’s determination in defence late on secured what the Welshman described as ‘one of the best of his career’.
Bath will be looking for more of the same energy and grit when a similarly united side in Exeter Chiefs visits the Rec on Saturday.
Double winners last year and a high number of homegrown talent to boot, Rob Baxter’s men do make the trip having lost their last two outings.
A fortnight ago, the Devonshire outfit ended up on the wrong side of a tightly-contested affair against Northampton Saints. Joe Simmonds’ last-gasp conversion was charged down as he was deemed to have started his kicking routine.
Last time out, controversy surrounded the end of Chiefs’ match up at Sale Sharks. Byron McGuigan and Facundo Cordero exchanged early tries before Sean Lonsdale put Exeter in front. Exeter had Jack Yeandle sent off for contact to the head after 26 minutes and Sale's Bevan Rodd scored just before the break to level at 15-15.
Sam Simmonds put Exeter back in front for his 12th try in a sizzling campaign but Curtis Langdon's 70th-minute try helped seal Sale's victory. Chiefs were unlucky not to receive a penalty for a man being taken out in the air in the dying embers of the game, though the losing bonus point confirms their place in the top four with a lot of rugby still left to play.
Date: 06 March 2021
Competition: Gallagher Premiership R12
Where: The Rec
Referee: Tom Foley (90th Premiership game)
Assistants: Greg Macdonald & Paul Dix
TMO: Geoff Warren
Citing Officer: Buster White
Media Coverage: BT Sport 2 (Coverage starts at 14:30)
exeter chiefs CURRENT FORM
Sale Sharks 25-20 Exeter Chiefs | Gallagher Premiership
Exeter Chiefs 12-13 Northampton Saints | Gallagher Premiership
Exeter Chiefs 26-3 London Irish | Gallagher Premiership
Newcastle Falcons 9-15 Exeter Chiefs | Gallagher Premiership
Worcester Warriors 17-21 Exeter Chiefs | Gallagher Premiership
LAST MEETING AT THE REC
Bath Rugby and Exeter Chiefs last met at the Rec in October 2019 with the Blue, Black and White coming out on top of the arm wrestle.
The reliable boot of Rhys Priestland had the hosts ahead in the early exchanges and despite some heroic defending for a number phases, Jonny Hill breached the Bath line to barge underneath the posts soon after.
Chiefs fly-half Joe Simmonds was successful with the conversion and followed up with a penalty on 35 minutes to make the scoreline 10-3 heading into the break.
However, Bath were determined in their response and with the clock in the red at the end of the first 40, they got their reward their patience deserved as Tom Dunn powered home with a little help from his friends.
Priestland added the extras to level matters ahead of an exhilarating second-half tussle. The Welshman kicked another penalty to edge Bath into a three-point advantage and Number 8 Zach Mercer produced a superb try-saving tackle to deny Alex Cuthbert a sensational score to keep it that way.
A dogged, determined Bath performance in the pouring rain.