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Match Report: Exeter Chiefs 42 Bath Rugby 29

02 Dec 2017
Match Report: Exeter Chiefs 42 Bath Rugby 29

Exeter Chiefs will head off on their European odyssey top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby pile after putting Bath Rugby to the sword at Sandy Park to win 42-29.

The Chiefs were running away with the contest at the halfway point as Luke Cowan-Dickie, James Short, Mitch Lees and Don Armand all crossed the whitewash in the first half.

Freddie Burns’ penalty was all the visitors could muster before the interval, but it did get a little better after that despite Thomas Waldrom scoring before the hour mark – meaning ‘the Tank’ has now touched down against every side in Aviva Premiership Rugby during his career.

Gareth Steenson – who also knocked over a flawless six conversions – scored Exeter’s sixth, but four late tries from a battling Bath meant they did at least take a bonus point back home.

It was hooker Cowan-Dickie’s first start in a Chiefs jersey since their historic Aviva Premiership Rugby final victory at Twickenham, and he took no time at all to settle back in.

The four-time England international burrowed over with a pick-and-go, as Exeter piled on the pressure with 17 unbroken phases in Bath territory.

Steenson converted, and the pressure continued from there as Bath initially repelled a trademark Exeter rolling maul after 12 mins, but soon found the ball back in their own 22.

And Short collected Olly Woodburn’s pass behind him, fended off Anthony Watson one-handed and wriggled into the corner for his side’s second – Steenson again adding the extras.

A push in the lineout saw Bath awarded 28th-minute penalty and Burns got them on the scoreboard, but straight away the Chiefs went up the other end and scored a third.

Waldrom punched a hole through the middle and Exeter were again relentless inside the 22, Lees eventually the beneficiary to dive over through a mass of bodies under the posts.

With 30 minutes on the clock the Chiefs had enjoyed 69 per cent of the possession, and as the hosts’ forwards again drove for the line from short range over and over again, Armand sealed the four-try bonus point.

It took Exeter 15 minutes into the second period to score again, as Waldrom completed his career set to score against every defence in Aviva Premiership Rugby, but when Joseph scored a breakaway try after forcing Woodburn to knock on Bath sniffed a chance of a point.

And despite Steenson collecting Short’s pass to score Exeter’s sixth in the corner moments later, Bath scored twice more quickly through Anthony Watson and Aled Brew – setting up an intriguing finish with Todd Blackadder desperate for a bonus.

Replacement Matt Banahan then came to the fore with just seconds remaining, as the powerful winger scythed through the hosts’ line from 22 metres out to notch the bonus-point clinching try.