Bath Rugby U18s secured back-to-back wins heading into 2020 with a convincing 22-7 win over Exeter Chiefs at Truro College on Saturday.
An early score from hooker John Stewart, followed by two superb tries from second row Ewan Richards proved to be the defining moments in the victory.
It was the perfect start for the Bath youngster, who despite the long journey down to Cornwall, were first out of the blocks. Shortly after gaining some early territory from kick-off, Bath secured a line-out deep in Exeter’s half, from which forward Mackenzie Graham was hoisted high and Bath began a steady drive towards the line. A patient maul, meant hooker John Stewart found himself with the ball, and dropped over the line to give Bath the opening try of the game. Orlando Bailey added the extras. [0-7]
Despite a couple of close calls, involving a charge down that almost saw Exter’s scrum-half walk in, it was Bath who got over the whitewash next. Instrumental in Bath's first score, it was once again Mackenzie Graham, who was the architect. Showing his pace, and fending off defenders in the process, he popped the ball off to fellow forward Ewan Richards, who as the support runner was able to gallop a short distance over the line. A tough kick meant the conversion drifted just wide. [0-12]
After conceding two tries, Exeter were keen to hit back, and despite a commendable and sustained period of defending from Bath, in the 23rd minute Exeter finally wriggled free. A scrum not far from Bath’s line gave the hosts dominant field position, and led to space opening up on the right side, and Exeter’s winger diving over. A successful conversion further closed the gap. [7-12]
A fast defensive line from Exeter almost gave the hosts another try before the break. A loose pass from the captain, Orlando Bailey, meant it was a foot race to the ball, but some good scrabble defence meant the score remained unchanged.
Half-time - Exeter Chiefs U18s 7-12 Bath Rugby U18s
Bath soon secured their third try which came in the form of a breakaway, which saw the forwards playing like backs, with Bath’s No.8 Frankie Read, deciding to put boot to ball, after breaking free in the Chiefs' half. His perfectly weighted grubber held up in the corner of Exeter’s in-goal area and was soon dived on by Ewan Richards, who made it his second try of the afternoon. Bailey was back on point from the tee. [7-19]
A number of chances saw both teams come close, but with neither side able to retain possession, the errors started to tally up. A change in tactics, saw Bath’s back three trade long clearance kicks with Exeter, and with replacements bolstering their defence, Bath were able to pin the home side down. [7-19]
With just 10 minutes left of play on the clock, the referee penalised Exeter for not rolling away and Bath were offered an opportunity to extend their lead. An executive decision was made by the skipper, and with the kick within range, Bailey took his side 15 points clear. [7-22]
As full-time approached, Exeter were in desperate need of points. However, a well-organised defensive effort from Bath meant the hosts were left frustrated and unable to penetrate the blue wall.
Full-time - Exeter Chiefs U18s 7-22 Bath Rugby U18s