Premiership: Exeter Chiefs 42-29 Bath

By James LawBBC Sport
James Short
James Short scored Exeter's second try in style
Aviva Premiership
Exeter (28) 42
Tries: Cowan-Dickie, Short, Lees, Armand, Waldrom, Steenson Cons: Steenson 6
Bath (3) 29
Tries: Joseph, Watson, Brew, Banahan Con: Joseph, Priestland 2 Pen: Burns

Four first-half tries helped a rampant Exeter beat Bath to extend their lead at the top of the Premiership.

The returning Luke Cowan-Dickie scored from close range with James Short going over and Mitch Lees adding a third try.

Don Armand went over before half-time and Thomas Waldrom made it 35-3, before Jonathan Joseph grabbed Bath's first.

Gareth Steenson got a sixth Exeter try to make it 42-10 but late scores from Anthony Watson, Aled Brew and Matt Banahan gave Bath a bonus point.

Reigning champions Exeter have now won nine in a row in all competitions while for Bath, who started the day in third, it was only a second away defeat of the season.

The visitors had the England quartet of Semesa Rokoduguni, Jonathan Joseph, Charlie Ewels and Anthony Watson back from international duty, but they did not make their mark until the result was already beyond doubt.

Rob Baxter opted to rest England centre Henry Slade and Wales prop Tomas Francis, but Cowan-Dickie made a scoring comeback from injury and Jack Nowell made his own return off the Chiefs' bench, having recovered from a fractured eye socket.

With only one try to their name heading into the final 10 minutes, Todd Blackadder's visitors fought to the end - declining a conversion attempt after Brew's try to save time - and got their reward when Banahan burst through after a scrum for a fourth try with 20 seconds left.

But Exeter remain unbeaten at home since December 2016 and will remain at least five points clear going into next week's European fixtures.

Exeter forwards coach Rob Hunter: "The last 20 minutes were a buzz-killer as we were disappointed to concede a bonus point.

"However, for the first 50 or 60 minutes, we were outstanding and possibly our first-half performance was the best of the season so far.

"We knew Bath would have a good period in the match and they showed what they could do when our intensity levels dropped."

Bath director of rugby Todd Blackadder: "Our weaknesses were exposed under pressure and we learned a lot of lessons as we lost all the collisions and didn't stick to our basics.

"We looked out of sorts and at times looked as though we didn't know what to do.

"It wouldn't have made any difference today if Taulupe Faletau had been available as it would be hard to imagine a better first-half performance than the one they produced.

"However, I am really proud of our second-half effort when we showed a lot of resilience to get a bonus point so it was effectively the same as losing 12-11."

Exeter: Dollman; Woodburn, Whitten, S Hill, Short; Steenson (capt), White; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Lees, Skinner, Armand, Kvesic, Waldrom

Replacements: Yeandle, Moon, Holmes, J Hill, S Simmonds, Chudley, J Simmonds, Nowell

Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Tapuai, Brew; Burns, Fotuali'i, Obano, Dunn, Perenise, Ewels, Charteris, Garvey (capt), Mercer, Grant

Replacements: van Vuuren, Auterac, Lahiff, Stooke, Phillips, Cook, Priestland, Banahan