Bath Rugby rescued a try bonus point in the final ten minutes of their Aviva Premiership encounter with a ruthless Exeter Chiefs, who ran out 42-29 winners.
Exeter stunned their opponents in the first-half, piling on the pressure in close quarters with wave after wave of attack. Three of their first-half tries came from close range, Luke Cowan-Dickie grounding the ball for the first. Gareth Steenson added the conversion. 7-0.
James Short scored the second on 15 minutes, as the home side attacked from their own half. Short combined well with his fellow wing, Olly Woodburn, down the left touchline to score in the corner. Steenson converted. 14-0.
A series of penalties in Bath’s favour allowed the visitors to make their way downfield, with Freddie Burns getting three points on the board frim just outside the 22, but the home side were in a dominant mood, and first Mitch Lees then Don Armand drove their way over the white wash.
Half-time: Exeter Chiefs 28 – Bath Rugby 3.
Thomas Waldrom added to the Chiefs’ tally on 53 minutes, but Bath finally began to find chinks in the Exeter defence. Pressure from Jonathan Joseph forced Woodburn to knock-on, and the British and Irish Lion hacked on, gathered and raced away to score the breakaway try. The centre converted his own try.
Steenson collected a quick pass from Short to score his own seven-pointer moments later, but Bath were finding their rhythm as the final 10 minutes approached.
Anthony Watson was on the end of a sweeping move through the hands that started with a quick tap penalty from Priestland to attack the broken field. The replacement fly-half chipped ahead, Ben Tapuai gathered and gained vital metres before Aled Brew and replacement Chris Cook both kept the move alive, allowing Watson to go over in the corner. Priestland converted. 42-17.
Brew scored minutes later, with Joseph instrumental in the build-up. The centre first fed replacement Matt Banahan, who went on a surging run down the right wing, before the ball was moved quickly back infield. Joseph was again the link man, passing out to Brew, who did just enough to slide the ball over the line before he was forced into touch. 42-22.
The three Bath scores set-up a frantic final few minutes. With just twenty seconds left on the clock, the visitors were awarded a scrum – which had been solid for most of the game – 30 metres out. The pack stayed steady, and clean ball found its way to Banahan, who scythed through the midfield to score the bonus point try. Priestland added the conversion as the final whistle blew.
Final score: Exeter Chiefs 42 – Bath Rugby 29.