Todd Blackadder insisted that George Ford delivered a ‘masterclass’ after the Bath Rugby fly-half combined with Semesa Rokoduguni to seal a famous 13-10 win over Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park.
Bath moved within two points of third-placed Wasps and have still lost just once in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season.
Ford had missed two kickable penalties in the first-half and after Mitch Lees’ 70th-minute score took Rob Baxter’s men 10-6 ahead it looked as though he would pay for his profligacy.
But England’s No. 10 remained undimmed until the last, his brave cross kick almost putting Rokoduguni through, before the ball was recycled and Ford again took the ball flat to the line and delivered a perfect pass to his winger, the Fijian-born flyer barrelling through two tackles to claim victory.
And former New Zealand captain Blackadder was immensely happy with the way his big-game players delivered at the crucial moment.
“When you need your big guys to step up, they stepped up and did the job. I thought George was outstanding today. You are always going to miss the odd kick, but he kept attacking the line and looking for work,” Blackadder explained. “It was a master-class from him.
“We kept our structure at the end, and George’s pass to Roko was the sign of a great decision.
“We are not getting carried away. We are just enjoying the battles every week.
“We are not the complete side by a long way, but we showed fantastic character. It was good gutsy stuff.”
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) October 30, 2016
Exeter are now without a win since beating Bristol in Aviva Premiership Rugby Round 4 and Baxter suggested last year’s finalists – who are seventh in the table – will have to recalibrate their ambitions for this year.
And after a series of narrow losses, director of rugby Baxter admitted that his players had to focus on marginal gains if they are to right the ship.
“I am disappointed and frustrated, but we can start to set ourselves some new challenges in a way,” Baxter said.
“I don’t mean we are going to give up on having a good season, but the challenges now are a little bit more like a test of character.
“When you have a tight game, there are lots of things you can do. One of the first things most people do is start looking for some kind of excuse.
“But what I want the players to do is be a little bit more accurate in everything we do. If every player makes one less error each over the next three games, you probably win three tight games. That is what we are going to talk about.
“We got a bit of a nice roll on last season. This is a different challenge, and it just feels like we need to start pushing things on.”
Penalties: Ford 2
Exeter Chiefs: L Turner (O Devoto 28); O Woodburn, I Whitten, H Slade, J Short (S Hill 61), G Steenson (capt), D Lewis (J Maunder); M Low (C Rimmer 43), J Yeandle (E Taione 28-35, 40), H Williams (T Francis 47); M Lees, G Parling (J Hill 54); D Dennis (B White 76), K Horstmann, T Waldrom.
Bath Rugby: T Homer; S Rokoduguni, J Joseph, M Banahan, A Brew (J Williams 68); G Ford, K Fotuali’i; N Auterac (M Lahiff 58), R Batty (T Dunn 53), H Thomas (K Palma-Newport 38-40, 68), L Charteris (E Stooke 53), D Attwood; M Garvey (capt), T Ellis (G Mercer 76), C Ewels. Replacements (not used): W Homer, R Priestland.
Referee: I Tempest.