Bath edge out Exeter
February 25, 2012
Young fly-half Tom Heathcote kicked a late penalty to secure a 12-9 victory for Bath over West Country rivals Exeter at Sandy Park.
It was a typical derby clash with little between the teams but the outcome meant a fourth home defeat for the Chiefs in the league this season, and the Devon side have to look back to January 1978 for when they last beat Bath.
Exeter applied the early pressure but they were unable to turn that into points and it was Bath who had the opportunities to get points on the board. Centre Olly Barkley saw a 45-metre kick fall short and an attempt from 38 metres go wide. Bath then looked to have scored a try after 10 minutes when Barkley gave a long pass out to wing Tom Biggs, but referee David Rose judged that the pass had gone forward and pulled play back for a 20-metre scrum.
The stalemate continued as the game went into the second quarter after numerous unforced errors from both sides, while the Chiefs failed to exploit the high ball from their fly-half Ignacio Mieres.
With 15 minutes of the half remaining the Chiefs wasted an opportunity after some great work from a 20-metre lineout and a series of pick and drives. But when the ball was moved into midfield they knocked on 10 metres short before being penalised at the scrum.
Then, with seven minutes of the half remaining and Exeter applying the pressure, Bath were penalised 35 metres out in front of the posts as skipper Francois Louw was on the wrong side of a ruck and Mieres finally got the Chiefs in front with a penalty.
Michael Claassens clears the lines for Bath © Getty Images
In the final minute of the half, Louw was again penalised for coming in at the side of a ruck and Argentinian half-back Mieres saw his kick, from a similar position, bounce off the upright and over the bar for a 6-0 interval lead.
Bath started the second half with a break by fly-half Heathcote but the visitors knocked on a couple of metres short of the line as hooker Lee Mears tried to offload. The Bath front row were then penalised at the scrum and the Chiefs were able to clear upfield. But Exeter were then penalised at the breakdown and Heathcote stepped up to land the 38-metre penalty.
Some strong tackling by the Chiefs earned them a penalty, however Mieres' 38-metre kick, 15 metres in from the right touchline, drifted wide of the uprights. Bath continued to look dangerous. Exeter were forced to defend their line but Heathcote had a simple penalty to level the scores with 20 minutes remaining.
The home side quickly had an opportunity to go back in front and Mieres, who appeared to be struggling after taking an earlier knock, landed a 40-metre kick from close to the left touchline before being replaced by Gareth Steenson.
From a quick restart by Bath, and with the home side still sorting their replacements, Exeter prop Hoani Tui was penalised for offside and Heathcote landed his third kick of the game to get the visiting side back on level terms.
That woke up the Chiefs and there was a positive break from wing Matt Jess. A knock-on put an end to that threat though and Bath were again allowed to clear their line.
With less than 10 minutes remaining Exeter were again penalised just outside their own 22 and Heathcote made it four successful kicks from four attempts and put Bath in front. Exeter kept probing for a way through but were forced to accept they would have no success.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham