Nail-biting win for Bath Rugby in Exeter Derby

In one of the most tense games of the season so far, Bath Rugby ground out a hard fought win over local rivals Exeter Chiefs, with Barkley slotting four penalties to provide all the points. Final score 9-12.

In what was the first West Country derby between the two sides, Exeter's intensity was fierce from the moment the game kicked off. With the majority of the possession and territory in the opening stages, the Chiefs made numerous line breaks. A cross field kick appeared to have provided the home side with the first try, but Tom Biggs did enough to prevent Exeter touching down. Referee David Rose referred the decision to the TMO, who ruled no try. However, play was brought back to the Chief's initial penalty advantage, and fly half Gareth Steenson slotted the penalty to give Chiefs the early lead. 3-0.

Five minutes later Bath had the chance to draw level after the Chiefs were penalised for infringing in the scrum. Olly Barkley stepped up and struck well to tie the scores. 3-3.

The penalty count was going against Bath in the first half, and an attacking lineout from a penalty gave the Chiefs an attacking base to set a driving maul from. Withstanding the pressure for a considerable amount of time, the away side's discipline eventually gave in and they were ruled to have infringed, enabling Steenson to take the home side ahead once more. 6-3.

Bath's defence in close quarters was solid and forced turnovers, but their resistance landed another penalty against them with lock Danny Grewcock deemed to have entered the ruck illegally. Steenson secured another successful kick, increasing the advantage. 9-3.

Just three minutes were left in the first half when Bath found some cohesion and linked a handful of phases together putting Exeter on the back foot. With the Chiefs not getting back on side, the referee gave the attacking side the penalty, and Barkley converted, closing the gap to three points as the sides went in at half time. 9-6.

Bath began the second half with much more intensity than the first. Having opted for touch from an early penalty, a powerful maul followed by a pick and drive effort from the pack caused Exeter to infringe, and Bath were awarded the penalty. Advantage was played, and centre Ben Williams picked a superb line through the middle, but couldn't hold on to cross over the line, so play was brought back to the place of the original offence. From a difficult angle, Barkley kept his cool and drew the scores level. 9-9.

Twelve minutes remained and both sides had thrown everything they had at the game, with an array of handling errors and scrappy plays being the result. However, an Exeter play forced Bath offside giving Steenson that golden opportunity to take his side ahead. However, much to the shock of the Sandy Park faithful, he nudged the ball wide, meaning the scores stayed level.

Moments later, Steenson had another opportunity. Sandy Park held it's collective breathe, but the fly-half again missed, hooking the kick right of the uprights.

Bath were soon on the attack, exerting vast amounts of pressure onto the Chiefs defence. The forwards pushed hard, working their way into the middle of the 22, allowing Barkley to slip into the drop goal position. The Chiefs were quick to react however, and charged down two drop goal efforts from Barkley, causing more tension to bubble up in the stadium. However, still in the middle of the 22, play broke down, and with Chiefs deemed to have infringed, Bath were awarded an all important penalty. Making no mistake from the tee, and sealing his 100% record for the night, Barkley sent the ball through the posts, and took Bath into the lead for the first time in the game. 9-12.

The final kick sealed the win for Bath, only the third side to win at Sandy Park this season, and saw them climb into the Top 4.

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