Exeter stretch lead at the top with dramatic victory
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Exeter Chiefs dealt a damaging blow to Bath’s chances of finishing in the Premiership play-off places with a dramatic 20-18 win at the Rec.
The reigning champions picked up their first victory on the road in 2018 thanks to a penalty from Joe Simmonds with just five minutes left on the clock.
Despite taking the lead through tries from Matt Banahan and Paul Grant, the Blue, Black and Whites now face a steep uphill task if they are to make the top four following their latest defeat.
The hosts had their backs against the wall from the off and quickly found themselves behind after Banahan was penalised for a knock-on, with Simmonds kicking the three points.
Chiefs continued to pile the pressure on and after more than half a dozen pick-and-drives, Hill squeezed over the line for the opening try, converted by Simmonds.
Yet just as Exeter appeared to be finding their stride, indiscipline allowed Bath back into the game with two Freddie Burns penalties cutting the deficit to 10-6 at the break.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first, with the home side putting their bodies on the line as they faced wave after wave of Exeter attack.
Chiefs eventually found a way through Bath’s defiant defence, though, with a relentless 23-phase move that was finished off by Sam Simmonds.
But the hosts bounced back immediately when Burns unleashed a trademark crossfield kick which bounced up perfectly for Banahan, who touched down for his 96th try for Bath.
Burns’ successful conversion brought Bath back to within a score, before Taulupe Faletau showed his class to charge through and offload to Paul Grant for a second try.
Substitute Rhys Priestland, who was returning from a long injury lay-off, converted the extras as the home side edged 18-17 ahead with ten minutes remaining.
However, an offside infringement from Bath presented Simmonds with a simple penalty opportunity and he made no mistake as Exeter increased their lead at the summit of the Premiership.
Bath remain in sixth following the bonus-point loss, four points off Newcastle Falcons in fourth, having played a game more than their play-off rivals.
Tries: Banahan, Grant
Pens: Burns 2
Tries: J Hill, S Simmonds
Cons: J Simmonds 2
Pens: J Simmonds 2
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 James Wilson, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Matt Garvey (captain), 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 James Phillips, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Cooper Vuna.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Santiago Cordero.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Tom Foley, Paul Dix
TMO: Rowan Kitt