A grandstand finish saw Bath Rugby come away 10-13 winners over Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park this afternoon, with Semesa Rokoduguni scoring the winning try eight minutes after the clock had stopped.
Bath started brightly, attacking the line at pace as they looked to find the gap in the Exeter defence. A strong burst through from Luke Charteris just over 10 minutes into the game gave George Ford the first shot at goal after Exeter were penalised, but the fly-half’s shot was just wide.
Exeter responded well, enjoying their first foray into the Bath 22. Whilst the defence was strong and Kahn Fotuali’i turned the Chiefs over, referee Ian Tempest decided it had been illegal, and awarded the penalty in front of the posts. Gareth Steenson knocked the simple kick over and gave the home side the lead. 3-0.
After a strong scrum from the visitors pack, Ford had the chance to equalize but again the kick went wide of the posts.
A long period of sustained pressure just metres from the Exeter try-line nearly saw Bath take the lead, but the well-drilled home defence stood firm and eventually forced the penalty allowing them to clear the pressure.
With just minutes left of the first forty, it looked as if Bath would end the half on the attack, but a loose pass landed in the hands of Henry Slade, who sent the home side surging up the pitch. Bath’s defence was solid though, drawing the penalty and closing the half out.
Half-time: Exeter Chiefs 3 – Bath Rugby 0
Bath started the half on the front foot, and with just a minute gone, it looked as if Dave Attwood had scored the opening try of the game. Jonathan Joseph had kicked ahead, the ball falling neatly for Kahn Fotuali’i. The scrum-half had Charteris outside him, who had his fellow lock Attwood in support. Neat interplay between the two saw Attwood charge forward to cross the line, only for the try to be ruled out for a forward pass.
Whilst disappointed to not score the try, the scrum that followed did allow Bath to get their first points on the board. The pack over-powered Exeter, winning the scrum against the head and earning a penalty. Ford stepped up and slotted the three points to level the scores. 3-3.
In a see-sawing game, it was the home side’s turn to pile on the pressure. Phase after phase saw the Chiefs inch closer to scoring, but Ford ripped the ball from his opposition number and the visitors were able to clear temporarily clear the ball from the danger zone.
An engrossing set-piece battle had been unfolding throughout the game, and when Exeter won the latest instalment, with a penalty just inside the Bath half after 60 minutes of play, Henry Slade stepped up for the shot at goal. The centre took his time, and whilst the ball had the required length, the direction was off and the assistant referees’ flags stayed down. 3-3.
Ford was next to attempt a long shot after Exeter infringed at the breakdown, and for the first time in the game the visitors took the lead after the fly-half’s shot was straight and true through the posts. 3-6.
The lead proved the be short-lived though, roared on by the crowd, Exeter’s infamous driving maul set to work moments later and Mitch Lees ground the ball under a pile of bodies. Steenson added the extras, taking the score to 10-6 with eight minutes left to play.
As a frenetic final few minutes followed and Steenson had the chance to take the home side further ahead, only for his attempt at goal to go wide.
Bath weren’t giving up without a fight, and after eight minutes of extra time they finally got their reward. A series of set-piece penalties went Bath’s way – lineout after lineout followed by scrum after scrum, before the ball finally made its way out and into the backline. Ford threw the miss-pass, finding Rokoduguni out wide and the winger powered his way through two Chiefs defenders to barge over the try line and score. Ford added the icing on the cake with the conversion.
Final score: Exeter Chiefs 10 – Bath Rugby 13