Bath hold on to beat Exeter
October 27, 2012
Bath produced an impressive defensive display to defeat Exeter%]
Bath's defence stood firm in the face of a late onslaught by Exeter Chiefs to finish with a 23-15 win at The Recreation Ground.
Ben Williams and Kyle Eastmond scored first half tries for Bath, with Brett Sturgess going over for the visitors. After half-time Francois Louw's try appeared to set Bath up for a comfortable win, but Ignacio Mieres pulled a try back to set up a tense finish to the match before a Stephen Donald penalty put the match out of reach for the Devonians.
The game was barely three minutes old when full-back Nick Abendanon made an outside break and fed Williams on the right touchline. The big centre seemed to have plenty to do but brushed aside both Luke Arscott and Gonzalo Camacho to score in the corner, Donald adding the conversion.
Gareth Steenson had a penalty chance from 45 metres but struck the post and Bath resumed their assault at the other end. In a striking departure from their limited kick-chase approach in the first six weeks of the season, they began to use Eastmond off the wing as first receiver in broken play.
With Francois Louw bossing the breakdown, there was suddenly more space and time for the home backs.
In the 14th minute, Louw timed his run perfectly to spear through the Exeter midfield, only to be hauled down just short. Donald simply sent a looping pass to Eastmond who scored in the corner, but there was no conversion this time from the All Black fly-half.
It was nearly 20 minutes before Exeter managed to string together a threatening sequence of play, breaking out from their own line, but prop Brett Sturgess dropped a pass.
The loose-head made amends almost immediately, appearing on Tom Johnson's shoulder to score in the corner after Exeter pressed home a penalty advantage. Steenson was wide with the conversion but there was only one score in it at 12-5.
Referee Wayne Barnes began to lose patience with both sides at the breakdown, punishing each in turn for going off their feet.
Just before the break, the Chiefs infringed once too often and too close to the posts, to leave Donald with a straightforward penalty to take his side 15-5 ahead.
Exeter reappeared in more focused mood, with Haydn Thomas getting his forwards operating more effectively. Jason Shoemark made a dangerous thrust into the Bath 22 and the eventual reward was a 50th-minute Steenson penalty.
Bath extended their lead when, after Donald opted for a line-out, they moved the ball and when it came back on the right, Abendanon fed Louw who rode Phil Dollman's tackle to score in the corner. Donald missed the conversion.
Hipkiss was sin-binned for Bath in the 67th minute and Exeter's advantage told as replacement Ignacio Mieres cruised over unopposed for Exeter's second try, and also added the conversion.
It was all Exeter now, especially after Louw joined Carl Fearns among the casualties. Not only were Bath shipping penalties on the field but Hipkiss stupidly interfered with Arscott on the touchline as the Exeter full-back tried to field a Donald clearance.A second yellow brought the inevitable red and that was the end of his match.
Exeter laid siege to the Bath line until the ball was cleared downfield and Donald took his a chance to wrap up victory from 40 metres.
Bath head coach Gary Gold was left to look back on a performance in which his side nearly let Exeter back in after playing some scintillating rugby earlier in the match.
"I'm very proud of the character we showed but not so much of certain aspects of the way we played in the second half, such as the penalty count," he said. "We'll take that win against a team of that quality though. We've got massive respect for Exeter. They're one of the toughest opponents we've played this season."
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter was left to rue a poor first half performance but he was not about to blame the rigours of two weekends of Heineken Cup action.
"My frustration is not about coming up short - it's with that first half performance. We just lacked a bit of clean decision making. We also missed a few kicks at goal. We wouldn't have been talking about losing bonus points then (had we scored them). In the second half we looked great and full of energy. I've got to be pleased with the guys' physical endeavour but we found ourselves two tries down without firing a shot."
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