Bath United snuck a 17-18 victory against Exeter Braves at Sandy Park to secure their spot in the Aviva A League semi-final.
Fly-half Ollie Devoto gave United an early lead with a penalty kick in the second minute, when the Braves had failed to roll away at a ruck. 0-3.
After quarter of an hour, the home side won a quick lineout throw in United’s half. No sooner had they done so than their dangerous wing Fetu’u Vainikolo cut through the defence and offloaded for openside Sam Simmonds to touch down.
Ceri Sweeney, the former Wales international fly-half, converted to make it 7-3.
United were a man short – with tighthead Beno Obano sin-binned for an infringement at the scrum – when the Braves scored their second try on the half hour. Fullback Byron McGuigan slalomed through the visitors’ defence to score under the posts, with Sweeney again converting. 14-3.
Devoto’s penalty kick drew the sides closer with a minute to go in the first half, with the home side losing loosehead Brett Sturgess to a yellow card.
Half time: Exeter Braves 14 – 6 Bath United
Minutes into the second act, United were in a precarious situation, with a feed at the scrum on their own 5m. Despite their scrum inching towards their line, replacement scrum-half Homer broke down the blindside and passed to Darren Atkins. The wing then started a remarkable length-of-the-field try that was ultimately scored by Rich Lane and converted by Devoto. 14-13.
It was then the turn of Semesa Rokoduguni, to score, showing all his power and grace to stroll over from 20 metres out. Devoto couldn’t convert, but United had regained the lead. 14-18.
Sweeney soon struck back to make it a one-point difference, with United penalised for crossing. 17-18. Incredibly, neither side scored a single point in the remainder of the second half – though it was to be a dramatic finish.
Twice United looked be away for two surefire tries – including a scintillating break from the increasingly impressive Sam Burgess, which was knocked on by his support runner with the tryline beckoning – but they couldn’t make it count.
The Braves were then handed a kickable penalty in the final act of the game, only for Sweeney’s attempt to drift wide of the left upright, sparking jubilation from the visiting support.
Full time: Exeter Braves 17 – 18 Bath United