Two tries from Amanaki Mafi weren't enough to prevent Exeter Chiefs coming out on top of a physical encounter at Sandy Park, as they clinched a 26-17 win over Bath Rugby.
With the wind behind them, the home side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the first-half, and with it kept control of the scoreboard. A collapsed scrum led to Gareth Steenson’s first three points of the game. He doubled the lead on 18 minutes, before adding a further penalty ten minutes later.
At 9-0 down, a promising attack sparked for Bath when Semesa Rokoduguni powered down field and play moved into the Exeter 22. But, just when it looked like Bath may find a way through the staunch home defence, Steenson read the play and intercepted. The ball was quickly out to James Short on the wing, who charged downfield. Short found Whitten on his shoulder, and despite a desperate tackle from Adam Hastings, the centre stumbled over the line in the corner to score the first try of the game. Steenson added the extras, taking the score to 16-0 with three minutes of play left in the half.
As the first forty minutes drew to a close, Bath hauled themselves back into the game. A penalty was sent to touch and after Exeter infringed at the lineout, the decision was again made to go for the corner. Hooper took the ball cleanly, and the maul drove hard towards the line. A pile of bodies crashed over and, after consultation with the television match official, the try was awarded to Amanaki Mafi. Tom Homer converted, taking the score to 16-7 as the two sides went in at the break.
Half-time: Exeter Chiefs 16 – Bath Rugby 7
Bath came out firing at the start of the second-half and earnt a penalty within minutes of the kick-off. Matt Banahan found touch inside the 22, and another rampaging maul saw Mafi touch down in the corner for his third try in as many games. Homer was again on target with the extras, meaning there was now just two points between the two sides. 16-14.
The momentum Bath had gathered at the start of the second-half took a knock on 48 minutes after Max Lahiff was shown a yellow card at the scrum, but the visitors managed to keep Exeter from increasing their lead whilst a man down.
Exeter clawed back some momentum in the sin-bin period though, and on 64 minutes Steenson added a further three points to their tally.
Homer responded in kind eight minutes later after a surging Bath maul was brought down illegally to narrow the gap once more, but the final few minutes of the game belonged to Exeter. They turned pressure into territory, drawing penalties to take them into the Bath 22. A 5m lineout was taken cleanly, and Kai Horstmann drove over for the try. Steenson added the conversion to seal the win for the home side.
Final score: Exeter Chiefs 26 – Bath Rugby 17.