Nick of time Now­ell makes point to Eng­land ad­ver­sary

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - CRICKET -

James Short led Ex­eter’s smash-and­grab raid with two late tries that brought them their first Pre­mier­ship win at the Recre­ation Ground.

Ex­eter spent 70 min­utes in grim de­fence but their heroic ef­forts re­stricted Bath to just one try and gave them the op­por­tu­nity to in­flict a first home league de­feat on Bath in nine months.

They grasped it with both hands as Short gath­ered a jug­gled pass from Luke Cowan-Dickie af­ter 72 min­utes and then rounded off a bril­liant at­tack started by Eng­land wing Jack Now­ell five min­utes later.

Now­ell was hauled down by Tom Homer but Ex­eter re­cy­cled the ball alive and Gareth Steen­son flicked it to Short, who crossed on the over­lap and cel­e­brated a fa­mous win with an ex­ag­ger­ated dive.

“The only thing we talked about at half-time was noth­ing tac­ti­cal, noth­ing tech­ni­cal, it was all about at­ti­tude,” said Ex­eter head coach Rob Bax­ter. “You can’t come away from home and lose the phys­i­cal bat­tle and we were los­ing it ev­ery­where. Our line-out didn’t par­tic­u­larly func­tion, our scrum wasn’t do­ing any­thing par­tic­u­larly, we strug­gled to get go for­ward in our car­ry­ing and we were on the back foot of­ten when they car­ried.

“They found mo­men­tum so much eas­ier than we did and their will­ing­ness to kick, chase and com­pete was a lit­tle bit of a level above ours.

“But, af­ter the key mo­ment in the sec­ond half when we were camped in our corner and man­aged to re­sist a drive and re­sist some phase play and come up with a penalty, we al­most looked com­fort­able as a team be­cause the mo­men­tum shifted our way. Then Jack Now­ell is the guy mak­ing the breaks and get­ting us on the front foot, our front row drove us for­ward, our scrum be­came more dom­i­nant and our line-out be­came more pro­duc­tive.”

Bath’s di­rec­tor of rugby Todd Black­ad­der strug­gled to ex­plain how his side had been beaten in a match they had dom­i­nated for long pe­ri­ods but the loss of props Nathan Catt, Max Lahiff and Nic Auterac with head in­juries dis­rupted their scrum and meant they had only 14 men on the pitch when Short scored the win­ning try.

“It was a shame to lose our props be­cause I thought we had some dom­i­nance there. To go down to 14 men with 10 min­utes to go just makes it harder,” Black­ad­der said. “It does seem a lit­tle bit un­fair the way we were pe­nalised there.”

The un­capped Catt, who failed a head in­jury as­sess­ment af­ter 18 min­utes, is still ex­pected to at­tend Eng­land’s Six Na­tions train­ing camp in Jack Now­ell de­nied his Eng­land wing ri­val Semesa Roko­duguni a su­perb solo try with a last-ditch tackle to keep Ex­eter in the game.

Brighton to­mor­row and Tues­day, hav­ing been in­cluded in Ed­die Jones’s 33strong squad. Catt was un­aware of his call-up un­til af­ter the match as he was warm­ing-up when Eng­land an­nounced their squad an hour be­fore kick-off here. Semesa Roko­duguni was a sur­prise omis­sion from Eng­land’s squad, even though he scored two tries on his last in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ance against Fiji in Novem­ber.

Roko­duguni looked like a man who had a point to prove to Eng­land head coach Jones, who watched with his as­sis­tants Steve Borth­wick and Neal Hat­ley, and he did not de­serve to fin­ish on the los­ing side. Roko­duguni showed what a po­tent at­tack­ing force he is by wrig­gling past Olly Wood­burn and Phil Doll­man for Bath’s only try and he al­most con­jured an­other from noth­ing.

“Roko­duguni was al­most un­playable. I re­mem­ber turn­ing to [as­sis­tant coach] Ali Hepher at one stage and say­ing it was like him hav­ing a Harry Potter cloak of in­vis­i­bil­ity. We were al­most laugh­ing about it be­cause we could not lay a fin­ger on him,” Bax­ter said.

While there was no fault­ing Roko­duguni in at­tack, he has been told by Eng­land that he needs to im­prove his po­si­tion­ing in de­fence and he was caught out when Short went out­side him for his first try. Dave Attwood, an­other man left out of Eng­land’s Six Na­tions squad, also fea­tured promi­nently when Bath’s pack were at their most dom­i­nant and wing An­thony Wat­son made his re­turn to ac­tion af­ter al­most three months out with a bro­ken jaw.

Wat­son, who will at­tend the Brighton train­ing camp, al­most scored with his first touch of the ball when he was put free by Ben Ta­puai but he was bun­dled into touch by Doll­man whose tackle summed up Ex­eter’s re­silience.

“If I was go­ing to wrap up our sea­son in quar­ters, in the first quar­ter we didn’t achieve what we achieved last sea­son in a good sea­son,” Bax­ter said.

“In the sec­ond quar­ter, par­tic­u­larly in the Pre­mier­ship, we have won at Sale which we didn’t do last sea­son, we have taken five points against Le­ices­ter at home which we didn’t do last sea­son and we have come to Bath and won.

“We had a good sea­son last year but we have started to knock off some mark­ers that could de­fine an im­prove­ment on last sea­son.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.