Bath Rugby withstand Chiefs onslaught to win season opener

The eleventh Premiership Rugby encounter between Bath Rugby and Exeter Chiefs went down to the wire at the Rec this afternoon, with the home side edging the season-opening match 19-17. 

The first half started brightly for Bath as fullback Tom Homer broke through two tacklers in Exeter's half, before knocking on in contact. Chiefs played the advantage, and it proved to be just that as the ball found James Short, the wing scoring a near length-of-the-field effort. Chiefs fly-half Gareth Steenson was unable to convert, but Exeter were buoyed scoring a try with less than a minute on the clock. 

The home side were able to register their first points of the match through fly-half George Ford minutes later as the Bath pack won a penalty at the scrum. 3-5. 

Before the first ten minutes were up, Steenson had furthered his side's lead with a penalty a metre outside the home 22. 3-8. 

From that moment until the half-time whistle was blown, Bath were made to defend for extended periods of time as Exeter launched attack after attack. Nevertheless, the home defence held firm and displayed great patience.

Bath's moment came half an hour in. Ford, in possession on halfway, popped a league-style pass over the head of an onrushing Chief. His pass was received by Anthony Watson, who drew his man on the wing and offloaded to none other than captain Stuart Hooper, who galloped in for an astonishing try. 

Ford gave Bath the lead for the first time as he converted Hooper's try to take the score to 10-8. 

The home side looked to hold onto their lead as the first 40 ticked down, but it wasn't to be: Matt Banahan was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and Steenson closed out the half with a penalty.

Half time: Bath Rugby 10-11 Exeter Chiefs 

Despite still being one man down, it was Bath who notched up the first points in the second half, as Ford's penalty saw them take the lead. 13-11.

The lead wasn't long-lived, as Steenson cancelled out Ford's with a penalty of his own. It was tit-for-tat once again, though, as Ford punished Chiefs' indiscretion at the ruck with another penalty. 16-14.

With 14 minutes remaining in the match, and Bath defending for all they were worth in their 22, replacement flanker Sam Burgess was shown a yellow in front of his posts. From there, Steenson made it a one-point affair. 16-17. 

Only three minutes were left when Bath and George Ford struck the decisive blow with a penalty inside Exeter's 22. Decisive with hindsight, that is, since Bath soon found themselves having to defend for all they were worth in the final seconds of the match thanks to a lineout stolen by Chiefs.

In the event, and painful to watch as it was for the home support, Bath's defence proved watertight, and replacement centre Henry Slade dropped a futile kick at goal to end proceedings. 

Full time: Bath Rugby 19-17 Exeter Chiefs 

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