Exeter confirm play-off place with hard-fought victory over Bath

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first_imgOn this occasion it helped that Bath put the ball in the hands of their giant wing Joe Cokanasiga so rarely he might as well have played in his civvies. It was an odd game all round: slow-paced initially and stop-start throughout, punctuated by umpteen stoppages and repeated peeps of Karl Dickson’s whistle. Bath, who lost their tighthead prop, Henry Thomas, to injury in the first quarter and had Beno Obano sent to the sin-bin in the second, had their moments but this result leaves them in seventh place, 10 points behind fourth-placed Harlequins.Their margin of defeat would have been greater had Exeter not failed to nail a couple of first-half try opportunities, most obviously when Olly Woodburn had a decent finish ruled out for not releasing the ball in the tackle as he twisted for the line. With Bath’s scrum pinned under their own sticks Exeter were also pinged for dropping the scrum just as a sustained period of pressure seemed about to pay off, the kind of penalty that drives coaches bonkers.Fortunately for Exeter’s peace of mind they did ultimately turn round 17-10 ahead, courtesy of tries by Ollie Devoto and the captain, Jack Yeandle, the hooker charging clear courtesy of a nice inside ball from Don Armand. Nathan Catt crossed for Bath. Share on Messenger Support The Guardian Share on WhatsApp Exeter … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on LinkedIn Share on Pinterest Read more Share on Twitter Glasgow’s Callum Gibbins warns Saracens may suffer Twickenham hangover Rugby union With Eddie Jones looking on from the West stand, this was a decent opportunity for any number of fringe players to shine in front of the national coach, even if time is running out to break into England’s World Cup squad. The fit-again Jonathan Joseph did throw one poor pass straight into touch but otherwise looked sharp, if not quite as rapid as the Bath’s speedy wing Ruairdh McConnochie.Exeter’s strength lies in their collective determination not to settle for second best, even on days when the marginal calls go against them. The Bath captain, Will Chudley, returning to familiar surroundings, knew exactly what would unfold if his new side failed to up the tempo, even after another ominous-looking Exeter line-out drive was scuppered by the slightest of knock-ons.Sure enough it was only a temporary reprieve. A penalty try took Exeter clear before Woodburn’s fourth try secured the bonus point, rewarding Santiago Cordero’s approach work.Woodburn should have created a fifth in the closing moments only to throw a wild pass with the line beckoning but it scarcely mattered.This was Exeter’s fifth straight league victory over Bath, once a club they found impossible to knock over, and it is now over a year since they suffered a home Premiership defeat. If their rivals are relying on them coasting to the finish line, they are set to be disappointed.Exeter Cordero; Nowell (O’Flaherty 55-63, 77), Slade, Devoto (Hill 66), Woodburn, J Simmonds, White (J Maunder 77); Hepburn (Keast 61), Yeandle (capt; Cowan-Dickie 59), Williams (Francis 59), Dennis (Lees 48), Hill, Ewers, Armand (Skinner, 66), Kvesic.Tries Devoto, Yeandle, penalty try, Woodburn. Cons J Simmons 2. Pen J Simmonds.Bath Homer; Cokanasiga, Joseph, Roberts (Clark 51), McConnochie, Priestland (Burns 68), Chudley (capt; Fotuali’i 59); Catt (Obano 54), Dunn (Walker 65), Thomas (Perenise 12), Stooke, Ewels, Ellis, Louw (Douglas 68), Mercer (Underhill 55).Try Catt. Con Priestland. Pen Priestland. Sin-bin Obano 60.Referee K Dickson. Att 12,809.center_img Topics On and off the field there is absolutely no sign of Exeter’s ambition diminishing. This latest bonus-point victory over Bath not only puts them nine points clear at the top of the Premiership but has secured them a play-off spot with five games to spare. For good measure they are also set to bolster their armoury by signing another world-class forward with South Africa’s No 8 Duane Vermeulen understood to be close to agreeing a post-World Cup move to Devon.Given the Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg is also joining the Chiefs tribe for next season, these are exciting times for Rob Baxter’s team, on course for a fourth straight Premiership final appearance. A forceful ball-carrier like the 32-year-old Vermeulen would make them even more of a handful and even on a day when rhythm proved elusive they still had too much horsepower for a Bath side whose own play-off hopes are now fading.Exeter could have had at least half a dozen tries with slightly more composure in the Bath 22, shrugging off the loss of Gareth Steenson with a calf injury sustained in the warm-up to leave themselves needing only one more convincing win to seal a home semi-final. With their international players taking off on holiday this week while Saracens smash into a European quarter-final against Glasgow, Exeter also remain hopeful of peaking when it really counts.Not that Baxter will be encouraging anyone to take his foot off the gas. “We don’t want to splutter through our last five games,” he said. “I’d like to see us looking like a team that are building a destiny of being in finals and lifting trophies. I think you do that by how you look. It’s about building belief in ourselves and some disbelief in others over the next five weeks.” Read more match reports Bath Share on Facebook Sign up to the Breakdown for the latest rugby union news Since you’re here… Share via Email Premiership Reuse this contentlast_img

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