- BATH 16 - 6 EXETER CHIEFS
New signing Peter Stringer came off the bench on his Bath debut to score both tries in a scrum-half masterclass against Exeter at the Recreation Ground.
Ireland international Stringer, who had arrived on loan from Munster earlier in the week, had spent 38 minutes watching the Chiefs dominate much of the first half of this LV= Cup clash while Bath looked anything but the home team.
However, the 35-year-old crossed twice in the second half to earn Bath the victory.
It was Exeter's first defeat in this season's LV= Cup and they still haven't beaten their West Country rivals in a competitive match since 1978.
It had started well enough for Bath as Tom Heathcote opened the scoring with a fourth-minute penalty. But that was soon cancelled out by Henry Slade and Exeter, fielding an entirely different XV from the team beaten by Leinster last week, were quickly into their stride.
Bath led a charmed life as visiting lock Damian Welch had a try ruled out for a forward pass and scrum-half Will Chudley was held just short of the line.
Exeter had to wait until the 23rd minute for the score their play deserved but it was only another Slade penalty after a mix-up at the back of a ruck, where Mark McMillan was being hounded by Chudley.
On a rare visit to the visitors' 22 Bath managed to spoil an Exeter scrum - neither side was comfortable on their own ball - and Heathcote made it 6-6 from the resulting penalty on 31 minutes. Ben Williams was then laid out attempting a tackle and was replaced by Sam Vesty.
With Nic Sestaret in threatening form, Exeter mounted another series of dangerous attacks as half-time approached but prop Craig Mitchell was just crowded out at the corner.
Then came Stringer's arrival, on for McMillan, and he was immediately a calming influence for Bath.
England hooker Rob Webber, recruited from Wasps last summer, was restricted to just 40 minutes on his first outing for Bath after shoulder surgery and Stringer needed treatment early in the second half after falling on to the ball.
But he dragged himself back to his feet and got back to the task of prompting and urging Bath into a far more convincing second half performance.
Mat Gilbert came closest to scoring on 50 minutes with a drive to the line, supported by Nick Koster, but Exeter held out and cleared their lines - although not for long.
Bath earned a kickable penalty but opted for the line-out and although Exeter stopped the catch and drive, Stringer dived through to touch down on 56 minutes. Heathcote's conversion was wide but they were quickly back on the attack and Dave Attwood nearly scored after Stringer sniped around a ruck.
Moments later, Chiefs' blindside defence was found wanting again and Stringer grabbed his second try, again unconverted.
Exeter came back strongly but lacked composure close to the line when it seemed they must score.
– Peter Stringer, Bath
I still have that ambition and drive to play at the highest level.
That's one of the reasons I was looking to come on loan somewhere and thankfully Bath came up with that opportunity and that's all I want to do - play and compete.
I'm here for a couple of months. That's the loan agreement. If Munster need me, if there's an injury they can call me back.
We knew we had to keep the ball and starve them of possession. That's all it needed - a bit of coolness and calm heads, be patient and when we got into these zones to come away with points.
We have a big challenge again next week at Gloucester and hopefully we can build on today.
– Ricky Pellow, Skills Coach, Exeter Chiefs
There's a bit of disappointment in the changing room. Hats off to the guys - they fought for everything, though.
The scoreline didn't go our way but there were pleasing aspects in that we played with intensity and attacked the game. We feel we are moving forward each week.
- NORTHAMPTON 26 - 7 GLOUCESTER
Northampton ended a three-game Franklin's Gardens try-drought to maintain top spot in Pool Four of the LV= Cup with victory over Gloucester.
Saints had not scored a try in front of their own fans since November 24 but Luther Burrell and Alex Waller touched down in either half to end that barren spell and earn their side the victory.
After recent defeats at home Northampton always looked in control of the contest and Gloucester may well rue turning down an easy shot at the posts after three minutes to go for the corner, with nothing coming from the attack.
Six minutes later Northampton were more sensible after Gloucester were caught offside in front of the posts and Ryan Lamb, making his first start at 10 since the December 7 home Heineken Cup defeat to Ulster, made it 3-0.
Ben Foden, looking to impress to win his place back his England place, was sharp early on, taking his own up-and-under superbly to set up an attack and with Saints showing the more attacking thrust in the opening quarter Lamb made it 6-0.
But from the restart a poor kick from flanker Samu Manoa saw Tim Molenaar slalom through a Northampton defence slipping and sliding all over the already heavily cut-up pitch.
Gloucester recycled five metres out and Ryan Mills went through scrum-half Martin Roberts to touch down. Mills converted to make it 7-6 after 26 minutes.
Saints retook the lead when, after good work from the forwards got them up to Gloucester's 22, big centre Burrell ran through a huge hole in the visitor's defensive line for his fifth try in 13 appearances this season. Lamb made it 13-7.
With Brian Mujati injured and Paul Doran Jones with England Saxons, third-choice tighthead Tom Mercey was still winning penalties at scrum time for Northampton, with one drive sending Gloucester, who lost tighthead Dario Chistolini just before half-time, back five metres.
From one scrum penalty Saints launched the first attack of the second half but Foden butchered an overlap 15 metres from the try-line.
After 55 minutes Northampton swapped their half-backs and Stephen Myler caught everybody by surprise by running through a gap with his first touch and the resulting attack brought a penalty which he slotted to make it 16-7.
Mills missed a penalty soon after and he was made to pay as Myler added another three points to increase Northampton's lead.
Myler kicked his next penalty into the corner and Saints brought on three fresh forwards for the lineout. It worked a treat as Waller broke off the maul to score, with Myler adding the conversion to make it 26-7 with 12 minutes to go.
Speedy hooker Mike Haywood almost scored a sensational try from his 10m line to round things off but his final pass with the line begging went awry.