|Exeter (20) 20|
|Try: Ewers, Slade cons: J Simmonds 2 Pens: J Simmonds 2|
|bathroom (10) 15|
|Try: With Cokanas, Annette cons: Bailey Pens: Bailey|
Exeter Chiefs were forced to sweat to the last gasp scoring a welcome Christmas Eve win over Bath at bustling Sandy Park.
First half tries from Dave Ewers, Henry Slade and Joe Symonds gave the Chiefs the lead after Joe Kokanasega netted Bath’s early score.
Bath strengthened their group after the break, and were rewarded when Niall Annette crushed the try.
They held the hosts scoreless, but were unable to break through the line.
The win lifted Rob Baxter’s side into sixth, leapfrogging Northampton, while Bath remained in second place after wins over London Irish and Newcastle the night before.
If Baxter was looking for signs of Exeter rediscovering their mojo on the back of two European bonus point wins, he was certainly present in the defensive strength they displayed in the closing stages of this encounter.
Bath rose superbly in the second forty minute, kicking into the corners and using the drop lines to really dig into the heart of the Chiefs’ halfback line.
But Exeter held firm even as they conceded five meters with seconds left on the clock, unfazed in the face of repeated push-ups before a watered-down penalty sealed the points.
At the other end, Exeter’s earlier attempts were more a result of graft than craft, with Ewers running on the back of the surge and Slade’s result following a charge from close range.
Bath started by scoring a great try when Cameron Redpath volleyed a ball from Louis Schroeder to the left wing in with a single run by Cameron Redpath to dive Kokanasega.
And after fighting their way back into the competition, they were rewarded when Annette, who was an early substitute after Tom Dunn was forced off following a botched assessment of a head injury, finished off a near-total attack for the squad to make things interesting.
But after three straight wins in the fall, back-to-back defeats in the Premier League have kept Johan van Graan’s side languishing at the wrong end of the table.
Exeter boss Ali Hever told BBC Radio Devon:
“It was a big win. We spoke at the beginning of the week that this was the biggest game of the season so far, and that was a lie.
“They’re a really strong, flexible and well-organised team, they didn’t give us a lot of chances and we had to defend exceptionally well. We had to let that go.
“It’s not a great setting in the changing room with coughing and chattering going on. We’re carrying a lot of bugs around the camp so there were a lot of guys who did a good job digging in there because they were out on foot at half-time.
“I’m happy with the situation, maybe a year ago we wouldn’t have won that match, so what we need to do is get away from each other for a few days and hopefully get this error out of the camp and move on to the Saracens.”
Bath rugby director Johan van Graan told BBC Radio Bristol:
“I’m devastated. Exeter Chiefs are a team I respect a lot and we finally had a chance to beat them here. Going up a meter in the course of the game is a pain.
“The drop was a key moment in the game, seven points for them, but I’m really proud of the way we fought tonight.
Credit to the Chiefs too, I thought it was a team game. Circumstances played their part, we had the first 40 against the wind and they had that in the second.
“We’re getting better, we want to get tough to beat, and we certainly have been.”
Exeter: Hodge, Noel, Slade, Catta, and Woodburn, J. Symonds, Mander; Siew, Yandel (c), Williams, Jenkins, Gray, Ewers, Chioneza, S Simmonds.
Alternatives: Frost, Josefa-Scott, Sheckerling, Dunn, Grondona, Cairns, Hendrickson, Hugh.
bathroom: Gallagher, Kokanasega, Lawrence, Redpath, McConnouche, Bailey, Schroeder; Boyce, Dunn, Ray, W Spencer, Lee Warner, Hill, Underhill, Bayliss.
Alternatives: Annette, Morozov, Griffin, Atwood, Ellis, Spencer, Ogumoh, Reid.
to rule: Tom Foley
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