Bath Rugby were beaten 38-16 by Exeter Chiefs at The Rec on Saturday in Round 12 of the 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership.
The hosts flew out the blocks to play some of their most exciting rugby of the season before succumbing to the power of defending Gallagher Premiership champions.
A try for Ruaridh McConnochie plus two penalties and a conversion from Rhys Priestland saw the Blue, Black and White run out to a 13-0 lead in the sunshine.
But Exeter stayed in the contest and clawed their way back with Sam Simmonds scoring his 13th Premiership try of the season, a brace of scores for Scotland lock Sam Skinner, one for fellow international Jonny Gray, while winger Tom O’Flaherty crossed the whitewash twice including an eye-catching late break to blow-up the final scoreline.
Bath Rugby writer John Evely takes a closer look at the individual performances at The Rec…
15. Tom de Glanville – 8
The full back made a fine return to the starting side, with his twinkling feet seeing him beat three defenders and bounce out of tackles with his underrated physicality.
14. Ruaridh McConnochie – 8
The winger showed his world class finishing abilities with a spectacular try in the 11th minute as he rose into the air as if propelled by a jet pack, claimed the inch perfect cross-field kick from Priestland, and then powered through a double tackle from Exeter’s Tom O’Flaherty and Jack Maunder to score.
13. Jonathan Joseph – 8
The centre looked much more like the world class player which has earned 54 caps for England as he sprayed beautiful long miss passes around the backline in the first half.
12. Josh Matavesi – 9
When Bath were playing their best rugby in the first half Matavesi looked like a world beater as he pulled the Chiefs defenders around like they were puppets on strings, selling dummies and opening up holes for his team mates to charge through with perfect offloads.
11. Will Muir – 8
The winger, who was named Bath’s player of the month for February, looked dangerous again as he galloped through gaps, however one such line break should have resulted in a try but he failed to spot Ben Spencer in support.
Willing to chase every lost cause.
10. Rhys Priestland – 8
The Welsh fly-half was perfect with the boot again as extended his record breaking streak to 36 without missing to finish with 11 points. The problem was Priestland was not given any opportunities to go for goal as the game wore on as Exeter increasingly dominated possession and territory.
The cross-field kick for Ruaridh McConnochie’s try was almost something out of an NFL quarterback’s playbook, putting the pin point kick into a spot only the England international could gather it. Beautiful.
9. Ben Spencer – 8
The scrum half didn’t have his most individually eye catching display but the speed of delivery in the first half when Bath were fully in control of the game was almost undefendable at times as Spencer zipping around the pitch.
You could see the Exeter players desperately trying to slow down the ball at the ruck, unsuccessfully.
1. Beno Obano – 7
Returning back from England camp as the only man released by national head coach Eddie Jones, Obano helped steady the scrum so as not to make it an area of significant advantage for Chiefs unlike the last time the two sides met when he was also playing.
He failed to make much of an impact in the loose.
2. Tom Dunn – 7
The hooker made 18 tackles without missing and led from the front in a hugely physical confrontation – typified by his big hit on opposite number Jack Innard as Chiefs attempted a 5m tap penalty.
3. Henry Thomas – 7
The tighthead prop battled well against Alec Hepburn to take the sting out of Exeter’s pack and was active in the loose making 13 tackles and six carries in 50 minutes on the pitch.
4. Josh McNally – 7
The skipper made a team high 20 tackles without missing and when Bath were flying in the first half found some gaps to exploit in attack.
5. Elliott Stooke – 7
Playing the entire 80 minutes the big lock looked to have run himself into the ground in the closing stages as he went toe-to-toe with the Exeter pack, temporarily saving a try by holding up the ball over the line.
With fatigue setting in Tom O’Flaherty exploited a mismatch to speed through for his side’s sixth try to blow out the score but it wasn’t really Stooke’s fault.
6. Taulupe Faletau – 9
The 88-cap Welsh international looks to have thoroughly put his injury hell behind him and is back to playing some of his very best rugby after back-to-back man of the match performances before today’s game.
Faletau was the standout Bath forward again, with the giant backrower stunningly mobile and deft on his feet for a man of his size as seen when evading tackles on a burst down the wing in the first half which left Exeter defenders clutching for air.
Just in case we didn’t realise how multi-talent he is, Faletau put in a beautiful chip and chase as he attacked down the 5m channel which a world class winger would have been proud of.
The Bath man is playing his way into a Lions test shirt.
7. Sam Underhill – 8
In his first game back from a hip injury which has kept him out for more than a month the England international flanker played right on the edge of legal for his 50 minutes on the pitch, winning two turnovers and slowing down the ball at almost every ruck he was in.
Made 15 tackles but uncharacteristically missed three.
The question is will Jones now draft him in for England to feature in the Six Nations following injuries to Jack Willis and Courtney Lawes.
8 Zach Mercer – 7
After a man of the match performance last week in the victory against Saints, Mercer had a quieter week as he was overshadowed by his opposite number Sam Simmonds.
With little room to play with as the game progressed, Mercer made just 14 metres in attack, although his ability to improvise passing with basketball style passes, helped open up the Chiefs defence.
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16. Jack Walker – 6
17. Jamie Bhatti – 6
18. Christian Judge – 6
19. Tom Ellis – 6
20. Miles Reid – 7
21. Will Chudley – 5
22. Tian Schoeman – 6
23. Joe Cokanasiga – 7