James Short’s breathtaking second-half double completed a phenomenal Exeter Chiefs comeback win as they downed Bath Rugby 17-11 at The Rec to leapfrog them into third place in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
George Ford had given Bath the lead with a penalty after 18 minutes following a scrum infringement and he doubled that from the tee ten minutes later.
But it was Semesa Rokoduguni who gave the hosts real impetus, first with a searing break that very nearly ended with a try and then by starting a brilliant counterattack before finishing powerfully in the corner.
Ford missed the conversion after 31 minutes and, other than a Gareth Steenson penalty, there was no score until James Short’s score in the 73rd minute, set up by Luke Cowan-Dickie’s superb skill before the exceptional Jack Nowell and Steenson paved the way for Short to go over and seal Exeter’s first ever Aviva Premiership Rugby win at The Rec.
Though it took nearly 20 minutes for Ford to record the game’s first points, Bath had an abundance of possession, with Chiefs holding up well in defence – their rush tactics keeping a lid on Bath’s livewire backs.
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) December 31, 2016
Rokoduguni very nearly put paid to that good work with a phenomenal break from inside his own half, collecting a high ball and rolling through several tackles before racing clear.
It took a miraculous tackle from England winger Nowell to deny Rokoduguni as the Fijian born flier tied up with the line beckoning.
Ford sent his second penalty over on 27 minutes after superb work at the scrum from new addition to Eddie Jones’ England squad Nathan Catt and Max Lahiff.
Rokoduguni was Bath’s game-breaker again with just under ten minutes to go. First, receiving a kick in the back field, he coasted through three tackles to take Blackadder’s side deep into the Exeter 22.
The ball went left to Matt Garvey, who was pulled down just short and then back wide right to Rokoduguni ten metres out with two men two beat, he hitch-kicked and barrelled through one tackles and as the second challenge came in, he reached to the line to finish.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) December 31, 2016
Ford missed the conversion, but Blackadder’s men went in for the break 11-0 to the good.
Chiefs looked much sharper after half-time, but small mistakes continued to litter their play and Bath produced key turnovers at vital times, with No. 8 Zach Mercer adding to his growing reputation with a resilient defensive performance.
Anthony Watson came off the bench to replace Aled Brew on 52 minutes for a first appearance since breaking his jaw in October.
Some superb midfield handling from Ford, Jonathan Joseph and Ben Tapuai very nearly put Watson in for a first score, but opposite man Jack Nowell helped deny his England colleague.
With the clock running down, Exeter’s chances looked to be slipping away, but Cowan-Dickie sent Short over in the corner as he burst through a tackle and juggled with a pass before palming the ball to his winger to cross with eight minutes left.
Man of the match Nowell then lit up The Rec as he carved through the Bath defence, the ball was then shifted wide to Steenson, who threw a pass between his lefs for Short to grab a remarkable second and Steenson completed the remarkable smash and grab effort with his second successful conversion.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) December 31, 2016