Three penalties from 21-year-old England Saxons fly-half Henry Slade plus the conversion of his half back partner Will Chudley’s try took Exeter Chiefs up to third place in the Aviva Premiership with their first-ever victory in ten league attempts against Bath.
The sell-out crowd of 12,621 at Sandy Park would not have been thrilled by the events on the field but the result brought the Chiefs a standing ovation at the final whistle as Bath suffered their third-straight Premiership defeat in the 16-6 loss.
Bath went in at half-time with a 6-3 advantage, despite having Micky Young in the sin-bin for ten minutes, Tom Homer kicked two penalties for the visitors with the Chiefs replying with one from Slade.
Exeter were back on level terms shortly after the restart through Slade’s second penalty before adding a third with 12 minutes of the game remaining. The stand-off then added the extras for a late touchdown from Chudley.
The Chiefs were forced to shuffle their backline from the side that won at Harlequins a week ago. With Jack Nowell included in the England starting line-up for today’s RBS Six Nations match away to Ireland, Ian Whitten moved to outside centre.
Tom James was added on the right wing, while up front there were starts for loosehead prop Carl Rimmer, hooker Jack Yeandle and the fit-again Don Armand at openside flanker while Bath were missing a number of Six Nations players.
The visitors made four personnel changes and one positional in their pack. There was a new front row of props Nick Auterac and Kane Palma-Newport plus hooker Ross Batty. Leroy Houston returned at No.8 so Carl Fearns moved to blindside flanker.
Bath went into the lead after six minutes after the Chiefs were penalised at the scrum and full back Homer landed the 25-metre penalty. The visitors looked set to be on course to follow it up with a touchdown. But the Chiefs skipper Dean Mumm intercepted a pass and raced 50 metres before being chased and tackled by Homer. The second row managed to get the ball away to Rimmer but he was tackled off the ball by scrum half Young.
The referee’s attention was drawn to the offence by assistant Thomas Foley and, after consulting TMO Geoff Warren, Young was yellow carded and Slade levelled the scores with a 30-metre penalty.
The strong wind at Sandy Park meant that the Chiefs turned down three opportunities to kick at goal preferring to kick to the corner but simple errors meant that they were unable to cross the whitewash.
The pace of the game was very slow and the crowd’s dissatisfaction at the lack of intervention by referee Richards resulted in slow handclaps. Then, just before the break, Homer landed a 22-metre penalty when Rimmer went off his feet for a 6-3 lead.
The Chiefs were quickly back on level terms shortly after the restart with Slade, the wind now at his back, landing a penalty from just inside the Bath half. Questionable decisions by the referee and time wasting by the visitors continued.
With 15 minutes to go, the Chiefs put some pace on the game and pressed Bath back deep, coming to within a metre of the line before winning a penalty which Slade slotted between the uprights.
Bath looked to reply immediately, testing the Chiefs’ defence, who countered with good attacking play and driving mauls which resulted in the only try of game from Chudley, which Slade converted.