Exeter Chiefs showed their clinical edge in the second-half, as they secured a 24-39 victory against Bath Rugby at the Rec.
It was a tactical first quarter with both teams exchanging kicks looking to gain the early momentum under the Friday night lights. The first points came after 11 minutes, with Freddie Burns slotting a long-range penalty from the Exeter 10m line. [3-0]
Bath extended their early lead on the 23rd minute mark, with Rhys Priestland crossing for the opening try of the game. Tom Ellis instigated the move, making a clever break down the right wing, before spotting the rampaging Semesa Rokoduguni who kicked into space behind the Chiefs’ defence. Priestland collected the resulting ball in space and ran in to score. Burns converted to give the Blue, Black and White a 10-point lead. [10-0]
The visitors closed the gap moments later with Gareth Steenson successful with his first penalty attempt of the evening. [10-3]
Chiefs levelled the scores two minutes later with an opportunistic try from Stu Townsend. As Bath looked to break out wide in the midfield, Burns’ pass was intercepted and the scrum-half just managed to evade the retreating full-back to score. Steenson added the extras to make it a seven-point score. [10-10]
Burns put Bath back into the lead on the 33rd minute, following great work from Tom Dunn. The hooker bulldozed his way into the Exeter 22, and his side subsequently were awarded a penalty from referee Christophe Ridley. Burns made no mistake, sending the ball straight through the uprights. [13-10]
The Chiefs secured the last points of the half, with their second try of the half, four minutes from the interval. Exeter broke through into the Bath half and it was Steenson at the centre of things once again, as the fly-half sent a deft kick into space into the corner. Don Armand was the grateful recipient, as the back rower collected to score. Steenson was unable to convert, but the visitors went into the break with a two-point advantage.
Half-time – Bath Rugby 13-15 Exeter
Bath got the first points on the board four minutes into the second half, with Burns adding three to his tally following an Exeter offside. The lead didn’t last for long, as the visitors kicked their way back in front from the boot of Steenson two minutes later. [16-18]
Bath were reduced to 14 men eight minutes into the second-half, with Rokoduguni shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, as Chiefs looked to break from halfway.
Despite being a man down, Bath fought their way valiantly up the field and added a further three points, with Burns slotting a superb kick from out wide. [19-18]
The visitors then began to assert their dominance on proceedings, as they put pressure on the Bath 22. Chiefs made the rolling maul work to their advantage, as the men in white crashed over the line. The referee called for the intervention of the TMO, who could see no reason not to award the try, which was given to Dave Ewers. [19-25]
Chiefs made it two scores in five minutes, as they showed their cutting edge in attack. A good initial break from Sam Skinner set the move alight, before Jack Nowell put Ian Whitten through in the corner. [19-32]
Exeter crossed for their fourth try of the game with 10 minutes left on the clock, with a breakaway move from their 22. Henry Slade charged down the left flank and looked as though he was going to be in to score, but for a superb tackle from Darren Atkins to halt the centre in his tracks. However, the visitors recycled the ball quickly to the opposite wing, with Nowell dotting down. [19-39]
A clever set piece move from Bath six minutes from time gave the Blue, Black and White a consolation try. Cook linked up with Burns from the scrum, before the duo combined once again, with the scrum-half going through the gap to finish. [24-39]
Bath kept plugging away for a bonus-point try, and Joe Cokanasiga came within touching distance of doing just that. A well-worked move saw the winger make light work of the Exeter defence, but a Chiefs hand stopped the in-form flyer from adding to his recent scoring record.
Full-time - Bath Rugby 24-39 Exeter Chiefs