Premiership semi-final: Exeter Chiefs 35-6 Bath – Exeter keep double hopes alive

Jonny Hill
Jonny Hill has scored seven tries in his past five Exeter appearances
Exeter Chiefs (14) 35
Tries: Hill 2, Cowan-Dickie, Hogg, Devoto Cons: J Simmonds 5
Bath (6) 6
Pens: Priestland 2

Exeter stayed on course for a domestic and European double by beating Bath in their Premiership semi-final.

The Chiefs will meet Wasps in the final at Twickenham on 24 October.

Jonny Hill’s try put Exeter ahead after Bath had started strongly, Rhys Priestland kicked two penalties to bring the visitors close before Luke Cowan-Dickie got a second Chiefs try.

A Stuart Hogg try and Hill’s second sealed the win before Ollie Devoto went over against his former club.

Exeter play French club Racing 92 in the European Champions Cup final on 17 October, before a fifth successive appearance in the Premiership’s showpiece at Twickenham.

Bath dominate first period, but Exeter take their chances

Exeter v Bath
Bath could not find a way through a stifling Exeter defence

Exeter had big wins over Newcastle and Northampton in their past two semi-finals, but Bath looked like they would put up more of a fight – they had 61% territory and 56% possession in the first half, but it was Exeter who made their opportunities count.

Bath almost went ahead when Ruaridh McConnochie dived over in the corner in the 10th minute, but the England back put a foot into touch under pressure after a nice Cameron Redpath offload.

Despite early Bath dominance, it was Exeter who opened the scoring with their first visit to their opponents’ red zone as Hill was forced over from close range following multiple phases on the Bath line.

Priestland kicked two penalties in quick succession to bring the gap down to a point with 13 minutes of the first half to go, but that proved to be as close as his side would get.

Hogg broke deep into Bath territory and 11 phases later England hooker Cowan-Dickie was forced over, and although Bath were handed an advantage six minutes before the break when Hill was sin-binned for a no-arms clear-out on Taulupe Faletau, Stuart Hooper’s visitors could not break down an immense Exeter defence.

Another year, another Exeter semi-final win

Stuart Hogg scores for Exeter
Stuart Hogg scored his sixth try since moving to Exeter after the 2019 World Cup

Having begun the second period short-handed, Exeter again defended superbly to ensure Bath did not score against their 14 men, and when back up to their full compliment of 15 the Chiefs began to run away with it.

Hogg’s tactical kicking from full-back pinned Bath in their own territory a number of times early in the second period, setting up a platform which allowed the British and Irish Lions full-back to go over for his side’s third try after a nice drop of the shoulder by Joe Simmonds.

That try seemed to break Bath. Exeter prop Harry Williams knocked on as he tried to dive over and Olly Woodburn was held up after a maul, but it was not long before the hosts did break through again as Hill capped off an eventful afternoon with a second try from close range.

Simmonds, who limped off with a couple of minutes to go, had a hand in the final try as he broke through the Bath defence before producing a wonderful hand-off to Devoto as Anthony Watson brought the Exeter skipper down.

The win was the third successive Premiership semi-final that Exeter have won scoring more than 30 points.

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Radio 5 Live:

“Our collective and individual effort today was amazing.

“What was different to all our other semi-finals was that there’s a game next week, every other time you get to this stage of the season these are the last two rounds of the season, you play a semi-final and a final and that’s it you’re done.

“We knew that there was a game for us next week, everything could have gone wrong for us, and the lads worked so hard they refused to let anything go wrong for us.

“I thought our defence was what won it for us, I know we’ve ended up scoring quite a lot of points and ultimately we could have conceded a few more and still have won, but on the whole our desire to defend every inch of the pitch, all the way to our try line and beyond, was incredible.

“That desire, that energy, that drive, ultimately that probably wore Bath down quicker than our attack.”

Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper told BBC Radio 5 Live:

“Credit to Exeter, they’re a quality side and I think their quality of play across all facets of the game is what did for us today – they defended well, they attacked well, their set piece was spot on.

“We had opportunities, some fantastic play to set up opportunities to either be close to the line or line breaks, and then just not quite getting over the line.

“Territory-wise we were great in the first half, but didn’t create any scoreboard pressure, and if you do that you always leave the game open.

“We know that these guys are so good if you give them a crack then they’ll get in.”

Exeter: Hogg; Woodburn, Slade, Devoto, O’Flaherty; J Simmonds (capt), Maunder; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Gray, Hill, Ewers, Vermeulen, S Simmonds.

Replacements: Yeandle, Moon, Francis, Skinner, Kirsten, Hidalgo-Clyne, Steenson, Whitten.

Bath: Watson; McConnochie, Joseph, Redpath, Cokanasiga; Priestland, Spencer; Obano, Dunn, Stuart, McNally, Ewels (capt), Ellis, Underhill, Faletau.

Replacements: Walker, Boyce, Judge, Stooke, Reid, Chudley, Matavesi, De Glanville.

Referee: Luke Pearce.

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