Bath stretched their unbeaten run in Aviva Premiership Rugby to five games – but it took two second half penalties from centre Olly Barkley to seal a 12-9 victory over Exeter at Sandy Park.
The hosts named an unchanged starting line-up from the side that won at Newcastle while the visitors had Jack Cuthbert on the right wing, in for England wing Matt Banahan, while Ben Williams was at outside centre in place of Matt Carraro.
The home side made a fantastic start and looked to have scored a try after five minutes when fly-half Gareth Steenson chipped the ball across the field – but Bath left wing Tom Biggs won the chase with Jason Shoemark. Referee David Rose referred the decision to the television match official David Matthews, who disallowed the try – and play was pulled back for a Chiefs penalty which Steenson slotted between the uprights.
Bath were back on level terms five minutes later when the Exeter front row were penalised at a 22-metre scrum on the left – and centre Olly Barkley’s kick crept inside the far upright.
Midway through the half Bath were forced to defend but the visitors gave away a penalty 15 metres out in front of the posts and Steenson kicked the simple three points. Steenson increased the Chiefs’ lead on the half hour with his third penalty of the game, this time from just outside the 22 and 15 metres in from the right touchline after an infringement in a ruck.
Bath came back into the game as half-time approached with Barkley’s left boot reducing the arrears from out on the right – but it was Exeter who went in at the break 9-6 ahead.
The visitors started the second half strongly but centre Ben Williams dropped the ball with the line at his mercy, before Bath levelled the scores through Barkley’s third penalty nine minutes after the restart. It took 15 minutes before Exeter could force Bath to defend but turnover ball allowed the visitors to keep the Chiefs at bay and mount attacks of their own – but they were also unable to breach the whitewash.
Bath scrum-half Michael Claassens was lucky not to be at least yellow-carded in the final 15 minutes for a bodycheck on Shoemark as he was chasing his own kick ahead after a break by hooker Neil Clarke. Exeter had two opportunities to secure points but Steenson was off target with both his long-range kicks.
Bath kept pressing looking for the first try of the game and with the referee playing advantage fly-half Butch James had a 30-metre attempt charged down. But referee Rose pulled play back for Barkley to step up and kick a 15-metre penalty which put the visitors in the lead for the first time in the game – and they kept the advantage.