Match Summary – Bath Rugby 36-19 Exeter Chiefs
Bath Rugby moved off the bottom of the Gallagher Premiership with a fantastic bonus-point win over Exeter Chiefs.
It was their first victory over Rob Baxter’s side since 2019 with Cameron Redpath’s magic feet getting things underway.
Solomone Kata and Scott Sio turned things around for the visitors but Beno Obano and Joe Cokanasiga made it a positive first half for Bath.
Tom Dunn added a fourth for the hosts after the break and Ollie Lawrence put extra gloss on the scoreline.
Hooker Jack Yeandle added a consolation for Exeter but the day was all about Bath. The perfect result for the club’s loyal supporters and the perfect send-off for Medical Adminstrator Helen Shand who departs the club after 28 years!
England international sextet Cokanasiga, Ted Hill, Lawrence, Josh McNally, Ben Spencer and Will Stuart all returned to Bath’s starting XV with Scotland duo Ruaridh McConnochie and Redpath also back in the mix.
Lewis Boyce and Piers Francis were selected on the bench following injury and Fergus Lee-Warner was another to come into the 23.
British & Irish Lion Jack Nowell was named captain of Exeter for the visit to The Rec with Wales forwards Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza in the pack. England outside centre Henry Slade partnered Kata in the midfield while there were places in the squad for former Bath men Ollie Devoto, Mike Williams and Olly Woodburn.
Bath Rugby: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer ©; 1 Beno Obano, 2 Tom Dunn, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Josh McNally, 5 GJ van Velze, 6 Ted Hill, 7 Chris Cloete, 8 Miles Reid
Impact players: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 D’Arcy Rae, 19 Fergus Lee-Warner, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Tom de Glanville
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Josh Hodge, 14 Jack Nowell (c), 13 Henry Slade, 12 Solomone Kata, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Sam Maunder; 1 Scott Sio, 2 Dan Frost, 3 Marcus Street, 4 Jack Dunne, 5 Dafydd Jenkins, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Christ Tshiunza, 8 Sam Simmonds
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Patrick Schickerling, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Ollie Devoto
McNally and Miles Reid set their stall out early on with a huge double hit on Christ Tshiunza from the kick-off but in return, Jack Dunne showed his physicality at the breakdown to win an early penalty for Chiefs.
Rather than take the three, Slade punted to the corner for Exeter to attempt to drive over from close range. A knock on whilst transitioning from jumper Tshiunza to collector Sam Simmonds prevented them from getting anything going.
Play was quite frantic for a period after. Spencer hijacked Sam Maunder’s pass from the scrum with his foot and the loose ball was hacked on by Kata. Several men tried, and failed, to grasp possession and eventually Matt Gallagher swooped in to cancel out any danger.
Whilst that phase lacked control, the opening try was a complete switch in the opposite direction. Collecting at first receiver inside his own half, Redpath punched on a hole on an inside shoulder, displayed incredible footwork to evade a number of white shirts and a great turn of pace saw him scoot into the corner.
Spencer converted beautifully with his left foot to make it 7-0, although it was only to be that way for a matter of minutes.
Exeter were hot in reply and centre Kata barged over from close range with Slade’s boot levelling for the visitors.
Both teams entrusted their nines to box for field position and their kicks were mostly on the money as each team searched for field position.
It was the away side who did have more possession ball in hand though a good Bath defensive set, full of quick line speed, strong tackles and disciplined, ended in Redpath jackalling superbly to turnover.
However, early in the phase, Obano was sin binned for a high tackle – with a low degree of danger – on Kata, and with a man up, an Exeter trick-tap play led to Australia prop Sio barging over from short range.
Bath regained control in defence and attack equally. First, Redpath, joined by Reid, held up Devoto in a choke tackle and then Lawrence combined with McConnochie to dart deep into Exeter territory.
The pressure forced Chiefs concede penalties close to their line and they were made to pay as Obano, having served his yellow card, powered home under the sticks. Spencer made it all square from the tee.
Foot on the pedal and with all the momentum, Bath took a deserved lead into the interval.
From a central scrum, Spencer delivered to the right where Orlando Bailey was on hand to poke a delightful left-footed kick to space in the corner. The ball bounced up kindly for a rampaging Cokanasiga who bumped off the pressure of Josh Hodge to dive over in the corner.
Bath’s initial task in the second 40 was to maintain their high performance and chemistry between defence and attack.
Chris Cloete showcased why he was named ‘Turnover King’ at Munster and then Gallagher’s brilliantly intelligent dink in behind saw Hodge wrapped up and McConnochie win a breakdown penalty of his own.
It led to excellent field position for Bath to build from and from a five-metre line-out, the Blue, Black and White held their patience and Dunn was marched over by his forward colleagues for the bonus point score.
Dan Frost was then sin binned for a late, high shot on Bailey and Johann van Graan’s side made their man advantage count.
Putting pressure on the Chiefs in their own 22 and Spencer winning a turnover, they kicked to the corner and the forwards steamrolled their West Country opponents to come within inches through Obano’s carry. Bath recycled with Redpath teeing up Lawrence and the England centre was successful with his stretch to the line for his team’s fifth of the afternoon.
But before the bin period was out, Exeter grabbed their third try. A big effort from the Devon outfit’s pack, joined by Slade and Devoto, saw Yeandle dot down from the back of a maul.
The score didn’t faze Bath though. The front row of Obano, Dunn and Stuart continued to dominate at scrum time, collecting penalties, and the latter quite rightly received a standing ovation when they were replaced. Obano was later awarded BT Sport Player of the Match and the Pol Roger Performance of the Match for his incredible efforts.
There were plenty of courage tackles which would have pleased Defence Coach JP Ferreira throughout the 80 and in the final quarter, Cokanasiga, Lawrence, Hill and Cloete were among those putting their bodies on the line for the cause.
They turned defence into attack for an electrifying move started by Lawrence and almost finished off by Gallagher but for a loose pass. However, Bath remained hungry to hunt and another strong defensive set allowed Piers Francis to kick three points to put the result beyond doubt.
A performance to be proud of and a move in the right direction for the Blue, Black and White with three games remaining.
POL ROGER PERFORMANCE OF THE MATCH
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