Bath taken to the clean­ers by high-fly­ing Ex­eter Chiefs

The Rugby Paper - - News - ■ By MIKE SINCLAIR

CHAM­PI­ONS Ex­eter moved ten points clear of third-placed Bath at the top of the Pre­mier­ship – and for 73 min­utes the dif­fer­ence be­tween the ti­tle ri­vals yawned far wider.

But, in a bizarre fin­ish, Bath, out­played in vir­tu­ally all de­part­ments, fi­nally got their at­tack­ing game to­gether to cut a 32-point deficit to 13 with three tries in the fi­nal seven min­utes.

“We’ve given them a bonus point we didn’t need to,” said Ex­eter for­wards coach Rob Hunter. “They have some elec­tric backs and if you let them run they’ll hurt you.”

The late col­lapse could not take the gloss off a truly dom­i­nant Chiefs per­for­mance and Hunter said: “For the first 60 min­utes we were out­stand­ing. We were very pleased to get out of the blocks and get ahead against a Bath team we’ve never re­ally per­formed that well against.”

Ex­eter’s re­lent­less for­ward ma­chine was straight into its stride and Bath were un­able to re­sist the third drive in an early on­slaught which took Luke Cowan-Dickie over in his first Pre­mier­ship start of the sea­son.

They were 14-0 up after 16 min­utes when rightwing Olly Wood­burn, who popped up on the left, and fel­low flyer James Short shred­ded Eng­land pair Semesa Roko­duguni and An­thony Wat­son be­fore Short dived over in the cor­ner.

Fred­die Burns opened Bath’s ac­count with a 28thminute penalty but they failed to claim the restart and Don Ar­mand snatched up the loose ball and his pack mates did the rest to mus­cle Mitch Lees over.

A high tackle on Alec Hep­burn by An­thony Perenise en­abled Steen­son to set up Ex­eter’s trade­mark catch and drive. Eight phases en­abled the un­stop­pable Ex­eter unit to move for­wards and side­ways be­fore Ar­mand claimed the bonus-point try after only 36 min­utes.

The one-way traf­fic con­tin­ued in the sec­ond half with Hep­burn, Ar­mand and Eng­land prop Harry Wil­liams throw­ing the ball around like backs. And Chiefs out­stand­ing No.8 Thomas Wal­drom man­aged to slice through for his side’s fifth try.

A Wood­burn fum­ble on half­way en­abled Joseph to kick ahead, col­lect and score be­fore drop-kick­ing the con­ver­sion.

The Chiefs re­stored their 32-point lead when Will Chud­ley and Short sent Steen­son div­ing over. The Ex­eter skip­per then con­verted for a 100 per cent kick­ing dis­play.

After both sides emp­tied their benches, Bath got their act to­gether with three tries in the fi­nal seven min­utes for an un­likely los­ing bonus point.

Rhys Pri­est­land’s kick over the top found Wat­son be­fore they teamed up again for Wat­son to round things off in the cor­ner.

Three min­utes later Aled Brew squeezed over and Bath for­feited the con­ver­sion at­tempt to save time as they chased a fourth try.

It came with a pow­er­ful surge through the mid­dle by for­mer Eng­land winger Matt Bana­han, who had re­placed the dis­ap­point­ing Roko­duguni.

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

Six ap­peal: Gareth Steen­son goes over for try No.6 in Ex­eter’s romp

Los­ing cause: Bath’s Luke Char­teris tries to break through Ex­eter’s de­fence

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