Premiership: Bath 41-24 Exeter – Alfie Barbeary helps consign Chiefs to defeat

Joe Cokanasiga
Joe Cokanasiga scored Bath’s bonus-point try
Bath: (12) 41
Tries: Barbeary 2, Redpath, Spencer, Cokanasiga, Butt Cons: Russell 4 Pens: Russell
Exeter: (10) 24
Tries: Slade, Townsend, Painter Cons: Slade 3 Pens: Slade

Bath moved up to second place in the Premiership after pulling away to beat Exeter 41-24 at The Rec.

Alfie Barbeary and Cameron Redpath scores, and a Finn Russell penalty, took Bath 12-0 ahead, but Henry Slade’s try, conversion and penalty drew the Chiefs within two points at the break.

Ben Spencer and Stu Townsend then traded tries as Bath led 20-17.

But Joe Cokanasiga, Barbeary and Will Butt all crossed after Townsend’s yellow card to seal the win.

Ehren Painter’s last-gasp reply for Exeter could not dent the celebrations at the full-time whistle as a third win in four matches took Bath level on points with leaders Sale, who suffered a heavy defeat by Harlequins on Friday.

Barbeary put the hosts ahead after just six minutes, allowed to go straight through the middle of the maul to crash over.

The Chiefs had been firmly on the back foot in the opening exchanges but had begun to get a foothold when Bath struck again midway through the half, as clever hands and a great line saw Redpath sidestep the final defender to cross.

But Exeter went into the match on the back of four wins in five matches – including a first away Premiership success in 13 months at Newcastle last weekend – and soon hit back.

Slade touched down behind the posts after combining well with Joe Hawkins and moments later the England fly-half booted them back to 12-10 after Greg Fisilau won a penalty at the breakdown.

Bath’s previous two home matches at the Rec had been decided by a single point and it looked like another close encounter as the teams traded tries after the break.

Spencer linked up well with Cokanasiga to extend Bath’s slender lead and Finn Russell nudged them 20-10 ahead with a penalty.

Back came the Chiefs as Townsend’s scrum-half snipe took him under the posts and Slade made it 20-17.

But the afternoons of Townsend and Exeter soon turned dramatically as the scrum-half saw yellow on the hour and Bath took devastating advantage with three quick tries in 11 minutes.

Russell struck the post with his penalty attempt, but Exeter knocked on when trying to regather and the resulting 5m scrum proved the springboard for Bath’s winning burst.

Cokanasiga fought his way over as the hosts’ pack wheeled the Chiefs back towards their own line and, four minutes later, Barbeary gave the hosts daylight with his second via a poacher’s finish.

With nine minutes left the game was up for the visitors as long passes out to the left allowed replacement Butt to score in the corner with his first touch.

Bath head coach Johann van Graan told BBC Radio Bristol:

“I thought in the second half we played some of our best rugby of the season.

“It was a tight contest – Exeter always stand up so it was quite a confrontational game played in very good spirit. Both sides were positive and there were a lot of big hits in the first half, but a big positive for us was our discipline.

“We knew that if we give them entries they’re so difficult to stop, as it proved with their first try, so it was important not to give them access to our 22.

“Then in the second half I felt from a territory, from a discipline and from an execution point of view that was some of the best rugby we’ve played.”

Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Radio Devon:

“I think at one stage the penalty count against us was 13-3, some of them were very soft and those repeat penalties led to a fairly soft yellow card given against something we didn’t really need to do.

“We should have had an appreciation that we couldn’t afford to give up a card there on a yellow card warning. You’ve got to understand those things and they ran in two or three tries in that period and that took the game away from us.

“Twenty-four points away from home is pretty good, but there’s just too many things that we are letting happen and I’m not saying we’re doing it deliberately.

“We told the players we need to dig deep into the performances to see if there’s something more we need to be doing, or something more we can guide you with, so that those penalties don’t happen.”

Bath: Obano, Dunn, Stuart, Stooke, Ewels, Reid, Underhill, Barbeary, Spencer (capt), Russell, Muir, Redpath, Ojomoh, Cokanasiga, Gallagher.

Replacements: Annett, Schoeman, Griffin, van Velze, Coetzee, Carr-Smith, Harris, Butt.

Exeter: Abuladze, Yeandle, Iosefa-Scott, Jenkins (capt), Pearson, Roots, Vermeulen, Fisilau, Townsend, Skinner, Hammersley, Hawkins, Slade, Woodburn, Wyatt.

Replacements: Norey, Hepburn, Painter, Tuima, Davis, Armstrong, Devoto, O’Loughlin.

Sin-bin: Townsend (61)

Referee: Tom Foley.