Despite a strong rally from Bath United in the second-half, Exeter Braves came out on top of tonight’s Aviva A League clash at Sandy Park, winning 43-22.
With seven internationals and a host of Aviva Premiership experience in the Exeter Braves, it was always going to be challenging evening for the young Bath United side.
The Braves’ first breach of the try line came after three minutes, with the home side pulling the United defence in tight after a lineout drive, before quickly shifting the ball out to the wing. Max Bodilly was the man flirting with the touchline, and he dotted down in the corner. 5-0.
United quickly picked themselves up, bravely defending to the last man. It wasn’t enough to hold the experienced Braves out for long however, with Michele Campagnaro scoring an almost identical try to his midfield partner Bodilly’s after 15 minutes. 10-0.
The Braves strategy was quickly becoming clear, with every penalty – even those kickable – being sent to touch for the attacking lineout, and it paid dividends twice in the second quarter with replacement hooker Shaun Malton m burrowing over under a pile of bodies on both occasions. Joe Simmonds, who had sent both previous conversion attempts wide of the posts, found his range and angle to add the extras to both tries. 24-0.
Ollie Atkins scored the final try of the half for the home side. They shifted the angle of attack repeatedly, stretching the United defence and allowing the lock the space to power his way over the line. Simmonds added the conversion to round off the action for the first-half.
Half-time: Exeter Braves 31 – Bath United 0.
With the home crowd eagerly anticipating more of the same in the second 40, it was the visitors who came out brighter from the changing rooms. They controlled possession early on and when awarded the penalty, Adam Hastings sent the kick into touch for the lineout. The ball was quickly sent spiralling out wide, and a looping final pass found the hands of the waiting Levi Davis, who strolled over for United’s first try of the night. Rory Jennings added the touchline conversion. 31-7.
A much more open game unfolded in the second-half, both sides looking to run from deep and with United finally managing to get their hands on the ball for sustained periods.
Davis scored his second on the 53rd minute, in a similar move to the first with the winger in space out wide receiving the ball and gliding over to score. 31-12.
The Braves were quick to resort to their tried and tested method of scoring from the first-half when awarded a penalty in the United half – sending the ball to touch, securing the lineout and driving over the line. Malton scored his third of the night on 59 minutes, but Simmonds couldn’t convert. 36-12.
The see-sawing nature of the second-half continued in the last quarter – Guy Mercer broke free down the right flank and found Bath Academy U18s fullback Will Partington in support. The young back dashed for the line, and just managed to ground the ball by the corner flag before the Exeter defence caught him. 36-17.
It was a night of multiple scores, as first Atkins dotted down for his second with just over 10 minutes to play (Simmonds converted) for the hosts, then Davis got his third to round-off the scoring for the night.
And what a try it was. United were under pressure in their own 22, but some frantic defence forced the turnover. Hastings put in a desperate kick downfield to get play out of the danger zone, and the ball bobbled along the edge of the touchline, skirting the whitewash. It looked destined to go out, but instead the ball stayed in play and sat up neatly for Davis to gather and run in his hat-trick score.
Final score: Exeter Braves 43 – Bath United 22.