Radio Exe Match Report: Exeter Chiefs 14 – 26 Bath Rugby

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In the early evening sunshine, Chiefs came up short against Bath Rugby at Sandy Park in Round 15 of the Gallagher Premiership.

Chiefs soon showed their intent early on as Harvey Skinner took a pass on the edge of his 22 to release Josh Hodge. The fullback gained 35 yards, eventually brought down past the Bath 10 metre line. One pass too many from Henry Slade couldn’t find Ethan Roots on the opposite edge of the field, giving Bath a momentary reprieve.

There was real concern on 14 minutes played when Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Will Muir clashed in the air as they both competed underneath a high ball. Having received attention from medical staff, both players were gingerly to their feet and ready to play on as the referee took a look at the incident with his TMO. Agreed as nothing more than a rugby incident, the game re-started with a scrum to Bath.

There seemed a tenseness from both sides as they worked in the middle third of the field with 20 minutes gone on the clock. Chiefs had a hot-footed break from Feyi-Waboso when he took the ball from a Greg Fisilau steal of the spilled lineout ball. However, he was beaten in the chase to the ball in the Bath 22.

Bath thought there was a chance Max Ojomoh had crossed for the try on 25 minutes when Olly Woodburn got caught on the turn by the bounce of a grubbered ball. However, the centre was judged to have knocked it on into the dead ball area rather than grounding, so the referee brought play back for an earlier penalty of a tackle off the ball against Chiefs.

The Chiefs pack repelled the first threat as they quickly trundled the Bath driving maul into touch, but the opposition got another chance at the set piece. And so, at the second time of asking, the Bath men were over the line with Alfie Barbeary in charge of grounding the ball right next to the corner flag. Unlike two weeks previously, the conversion attempt curled round nicely for Ben Spencer.

Bath carried the ball back into their own 22 before kicking to touch with half an hour gone, giving Chiefs the perfect opportunity at a lineout deep in opposition territory. The first attempt with the driving maul was brought down by the Bath pack before a penalty was awarded at the second, enabling Chiefs to go for their characteristic tap-and-go.

Working through the tight, short carries along the length of the Bath line, Chiefs thought they were in for their first points when Tom Cairns collected from the bottom of the ruck to quick literally dive over for the score. However, the TMO called to the referee that the space had only opened for the scrum half due to crossing from Exeter.

Working well in the Bath 22, frustration then reigned when the Exeter men were judged to have not released at the ruck, overturning the tide of the momentum.

Bath themselves were surprised when Charlie Ewels broke through the middle of the lineout to break downfield. Lolloping run and all, the big second rower offloaded to his scrum half to both complete and convert the score to end the half.

Half-time: Chiefs 0 – 14 Bath

Chiefs came out the changing rooms immediately looking for front-foot ball with key carries from Devoto, Hodge and Feyi-Waboso getting them into the Bath 22. However, to the crowd’s groans, the breakdown penalty went the way of Bath.

The TMO was employed once more when Quinn Roux looked to have drove into the ruck with a no-arms tackle to the back of Jack Yeandle. No card was given, but the penalty came the way of Chiefs on the cusp of the Bath 22.

Slade put the ball into touch for the lineout which the Chiefs then took quickly. Playing tight to the posts with ball in hand, Cairns switched the long ball out to Hodge to flick over Ollie Lawrence’s head for Woodburn to have the clean route to run in right in front of the East Terrace. Slade struck the ball through the uprights for the conversion.

An unfortunate mistake from Cairns juggling a ball on his own line allowed Bath to re-lengthen the lead as Ojomoh, having continued his chase, stooped low to dot the ball down to score. The conversion attempt, however, was unsuccessful for Spencer.

With 52 minutes gone, there was an extended break in play as the TMO was consulted on the possible grounding of a ball for a try from Miles Reid. With no clear footage, the call on the field from referee Adam Leal stood and Bath chalked another try to their name. Spencer took the simple conversion from in front of the posts.

On an hour played, Jack Dunne thought there was a possibility of replicating his try heroics from the Munster game earlier in the season, but there was a defender back to make the tackle. Baxter’s men had been working with the advantage however, and so were able to come back to put the ball deep into the corner.

Chiefs were shortly back into deep Bath territory though and were sure not to squander the opportunity. There were loud cheers from the crowd but sheer focus from the players when Stu Townsend found a gap to snipe through for a try. Slade converted to make it a 12-point game.

The home side dove straight back into enemy territory with an offside penalty shortly following the restart. A powerful nudge from Slade to touch gave them a lineout on the five-metre line, but the cause was thwarted by a side entry at the breakdown in the following phase of play.

And that was to be the theme of the concluding 10 minutes of the game as penalties and handing errors hampered Chiefs’ chances of securing a losing bonus-point score.

Full-time: Chiefs 14 – 26 Bath

Chiefs: J Hodge; I Feyi-Waboso, H Slade, O Devoto (Wimbush 53’), O Woodburn; H Skinner, T Cairns (Townsend 51’); S Sio (Southworth 59’), J Yeandle (Norey 59’), E Painter (Street 40’), L Pearson (Dunne 52’), D Jenkins, E Roots (Tshiunza 49’), J Vermeulen, G Fisilau.

Unused replacements: Haydon-Wood

Tries: Woodburn, Townsend Conversions: Slade 2

Bath Rugby: M Gallagher; J Cokanasiga, O Lawrence, M Ojomoh, W Muir; O Bailey, B Spencer (Schreuder 77’); B Obano (Du Toit 51’), T Dunn (Faiva 67’), W Stuart (Griffin 62’), Q Roux (Du Plessis 51’), C Ewels, T Hill, S Underhill (Reid 51’, Bayliss 62’), A Barbeary.

Unused replacements: Butt

Tries: Barbeary, Spencer, Ojomoh, Reid Conversions: Spencer 3

Referee: Adam Leal

Attendance: 14,933

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