Late penalty try denies Chiefs their first win over Bath

Gareth Steenson kicked four penalties for the Chiefs. Photo: Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport
  • EXETER CHIEFS 12 - 12 BATH

The conversion of a penalty try three minutes from time denied Exeter their first Premiership victory over West Country rivals Bath in front of a sell-out crowd of 10,744 at Sandy Park.

Both sides went into the game on the back of defeats with Exeter seeing their run of seven victories halted by a 18-16 defeat at Gloucester while Bath were hammered 22-0 at home to Saracens.

The Chiefs applied the early pressure but conceded silly penalties and when close to the posts they had the ball turned over. Then with 12 minutes on the clock fly-half Gareth Steenson, with the wind at his back, landed the opening penalty.

But the visitors hit back immediately with a try started and finished by scrum half Michael Claassens in the left corner with great support play from wing Tom Biggs and fly-half Steven Donald. Claassens was unable to convert from touchline.

Michael Claassens scored Bath's first try. Credit: Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

The home side were able to create breaks from deep in their own half but unforced errors or penalties were again the Chiefs downfall when they ventured into the Bath 22 allowing the visitors to keep their line intact.

Then, with time already up on the clock, Bath wing Horacio Agulla was penalised for coming in at the side of the ruck and Steenson stepped-up to land his second kick of the game and nudge the Chiefs into a 6-5 half-time lead.

Steenson increased the lead minutes after the restart when Bath repeated the previous offence just before the break but this time Skirving was the culprit. The penalty from the former Ireland under-21 took him past 1,000 points since his Exeter debut in 2008.

The Chiefs were certainly an improved side in the second half at the scrum and the lineout as well as limiting their errors. Bath strayed offside when inside their own 22 and Steenson kept a clean sheet with his fourth penalty kick.

Exeter again showed that they too can defend their own line and with the game going into the final 10 minutes the Chiefs again camped out inside the Bath 22. But when they turned a Bath scrum the home side were penalised for standing up.

Bath won a penalty inside the Exeter 22 and opt to kick for the corner and then the Chiefs were penalised at the ruck. Bath repeated the move and referee David Rose awarded a penalty try. Tom Heathcote added the extras to level the score.

Whenever a team peg you back that late in the game, specifically when you have quite good control of things, it feels tough.

But there is a reality, I don't think we played well enough in the first half and I don't think our forwards were right on the money.

That changed pretty dramatically in the second half and ultimately they gave us the control to really pull away. Then we kind of did what we did in the first half, which was doubled-up a couple of errors and a couple of penalties.

All of a sudden we were defending in the corner and the penalty try happens and the game has gone from you. That is a little frustrating but this is the best result that we have had against Bath and it shows that we are getting a lot of things right.

We are still unbeaten at home in the Premiership and we are still collecting points as we need to. We are in the top half of the league which is where we want to be.

– Rob Baxter, Head Coach, Exeter Chiefs

The resilience and bounce back from last week was really important because it is a test of character. It is that character that get you through the dark months and get through to the other side.

There was a bump in the road last week and we knew this game would be a massive test of character and we have come through that test.

We kept our resolve and our determination to establish field position. To keep the ball for long periods of time and then capitalise on it was important.

Everyone talks about how well Exeter attack, and they do, but we out-scored them two tries to nil and that is a good tick in the box for us.

– Toby Booth, First Team Coach, Bath