An enthralling West Country derby saw Bath Rugby come away 31-14 bonus point winners over Exeter Chiefs at the Recreation Ground this afternoon.
It was a fantastic end to end game of rugby for the sold-out Recreation Ground crowd, with players from both sides giving their all.
With eight minutes gone, the home side thought they’d got the first score of the game. Delicate linking play between George Ford and Horacio Agulla set Matt Banahan up to cut an arcing inside line and cross for the try, but the score was ruled out by referee J.P. Doyle for a forward pass.
It was, in fact, Exeter who got points on the scoreboard first, albeit against the run of play. As Bath were working their way up the field, a loose ball was pounced on by Chiefs’ captain Dean Mumm. The lock charged down field and Matt Jess was with him in support, and the winger sprinted over the line. Gareth Steenson was on target with the conversion, 0-7.
The Bath backs looked threatening every time they had the ball, and they worked hard to force holes in the Exeter defensive line. It paid off on 29 minutes, as Kyle Eastmond found Agulla on the angle and the winger darted through to score. Ford added the extras to level the scores. 7-7.
With just four minutes left of the half Bath got their second try. The lively Chris Cook broke free from the back of a ruck following more flowing play across the field. The scrum-half found Eastmond on his shoulder, who left the defence behind to touch down near the posts. Ford was once again on target with the conversion, giving Bath the lead. 14-7.
Half-time score: Bath Rugby 14 – Exeter Chiefs 7.
The visitors drew level shortly after the start of the second-half, Jack Nowell pouncing on a ball in the corner that had been kicked through by his centre colleague Sam Hill. Steenson added the conversion. 14-14.
With just under half an hour left to play, the Bath forwards really started to show their dominance. An Exeter lineout stolen by Stuart Hooper saw the home pack set-up a huge driving maul that travelled straight through the 22 and up to the try-line. Replacement lock Dave Attwood had a secure hold of the ball at the back and he crashed down over the line. Ford added the conversion. 21-14.
The forwards continued to control the game from there on in, with a penalty earned at the scrum providing another three points from the boot of Ford. 24-14.
With 10 minutes left, Bath were hunting for the bonus point try. As they pushed towards the whitewash once again, Exeter’s defence became ill-disciplined and replacement Mitch Lees was shown a yellow card for pulling down the maul.
Despite being a man down, Exeter fought hard for the remainder of the game, but the pressure finally told. Ford picked out Anthony Watson unmarked on the wing, and the fullback turned on the gas to race away from the tiring defence to wrap up the five point win.
Final score: Bath Rugby 31 – Exeter Chiefs 14.