MATCH SUMMARY - exeter chiefs 25-22 bath rugby
In what was Bath Rugby's last Premiership Rugby Cup appearance of the season, a young side delivered a gutsy performance in difficult weather conditions.
Tries from Sam Harris, Ewan Richards and Tom Carr-Smith saw Bath edge their way back into the game to run Chiefs right into the last seconds.
With the weather playing a huge part in the type of rugby Bath were able to play, their kicking game was disrupted by a gusty wind ultimately allowing Chiefs to get an early hold of the game forcing Bath to chase the hosts for much of the game.
Returning to the pitch after a three-week ban, Dave Attwood led a young side out at Sandy Park in some blustery, wet weather.
Also returning in a Bath jersey was Piers Francis, who has been sidelined since picking up a leg injury during Bath's game against Gloucester.
Pulling the strings at 10 was George Worboys, supported by Tom Carr-Smith as his half-back pairing.
Getting his first run out for Bath Rugby since coming up through the academy programme was prop Archie Griffin, who delivered a hearty debut performance coming off the bench in the 59th minute.
Bath Rugby: 15 Sam Harris, 14 Gabe Goss, 13 Max Wright, 12, Piers Francis, 11 Darren Atkins, 10 George Worboys, 9 Tom Carr-Smith; 1 Archie Stanley, 2 Tom Doughty, 3 Kieran Verden, 4 Dave Atwood (c), 5 Ewan Richards, 6 JJ Tonks, 7 Ethan Staddon, 8 Wesley White.
Impact players: 16 John Stewart, 17 Arthur Cordwell, 18 Archie Griffin, 19 Michael Etete, 20 Will Spencer, 21 Murdoch Lock, 22 Jordan Venter, 23 Nahum Merigan
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Facundo Cordero, 14 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, 13 Zack Wimbush, 12 Tom Wyatt, 11 Arthur Relton, 10 Iwan Jenkins, 9 Tom Cairns; 1 James Kenny, 2 Jack Innard (c), 3 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 4 Alfie Bell, 5 Joe Bailey, 6 Rus Tuima, 7 Aidon Davis, 8 Greg Fisilau
Replacements: 16 Max Norey, 17 Danny Southworth, 18 Matt Johnson, 19 Cory Teague, 20 Santiago Grondona, 21 Orson James, 22 Shea Cornish, 23 Frankie Nowell
Exeter Chiefs’ Iwan Jenkins got things underway kicking the ball high into grey skies and falling into the hands of a waiting Gabe Goss.
Knocking the ball on in the tackle, Chiefs gave Bath the put in at the scrum which saw the hosts engage prematurely. Opting to scrum down once more, Tom Carr-Smith found Piers Francis who powered through the Chiefs defenders but got caught in the tackle handing possession back to the hosts.
After a spell of phases, a Bath hand in the ruck gave Chiefs their first three points on the board from a penalty kick taken by Jenkins.
Relentless in their attack, a charge down from Alfie Bell saw Bath go into scramble defence mode on their five-metre line and fantastically turn the ball over to earn a penalty of their own.
With the gusty wind definitely not on their side, Bath remained pinned inside their own half after two chances at clearing their lines.
Pressure from the Chiefs paid dividends for the hosts who were soon awarded another penalty and added another three points to their total.
Bath managed to gather from the restart but turning the ball over, Exeter were on the charge once again. Finding himself on the wing, Chiefs' blindside flanker Rus Tuima gathered the ball and dived over for the first try of the game, extending Chiefs’ lead to 13-0.
Entering the final 10 minutes of the half, Bath positioned themselves up field. Opting to play the ball rather than kick into a swirling wind, some strong carries earned Bath a penalty for their efforts, slotted nicely by Francis’s boot.
Managing to fit in a second try before the half-time whistle, it was the host’s openside flanker, Aidon Davis, who was bundled over the line for Chiefs’ second of the afternoon.
With the clock in the red, Bath were relentless in their attempt to turn territory into points. Captain Dave Attwood shouted upon his team to remain composed and their determination pushed Ewan Richards over the try-line to shrink the gap as the teams headed down the tunnel out of the cold. The half ended 20-10 with rain beating down at Sandy Park.
Out for the second 40 and this time playing with the wind, Bath would now look to play with more territory than the first half.
Earning a penalty for Bath being caught offside, Chiefs kicked downfield. Missing touch, it was now on Bath to use the opportunity to put themselves back in a threatening position.
From their penalty the pack formed a driving maul and made metres down on the far wing. Sending the ball out wide through numerous sets of hands, Bath’s second score came from full-back Sam Harris who cut through the Chiefs’ defence to slide over the line. Converted by Piers Francis, Bath were now within three.
With the rain beating down, Chiefs earned a penalty and put Bath on the backfoot inside their own 22. Charging down another of Carr-Smith’s box kicks, Chiefs' first attempt at crossing the line was ruled no try. Racking up the penalties on their own line, Wesley White was sent to the bin allowing the extra man advantage to pay off for Davis to cross the line for his second of the afternoon, taking the score to 25-17.
Emptying out their bench, including a debut for prop Archie Griffin, Bath were looking take play back down into the Chiefs territory. With penalties racking up, each spell in their opposition's half resulted in Chiefs hands' back on the ball.
With eight points in it in the closing minutes of the game, Bath kicked a penalty into the Chiefs corner. Catching the home team napping, Tom Carr-Smith snuck down the blindside of the maul and crashed over the line to bring the game to within three.
With a crucial turnover in the closing seconds of the game, Bath’s final crack at securing the win escaped them after a loose pass saw the ball knocked on and nudged out of play for the home side to claim the win.
It was a gutsy performance in tough conditions out in the elements where Bath played with intent showing what the young side can do against a tough opposition.