Exeter into Premiership semi-finals after beating Bath
London (AFP) –
Exeter assured themselves of a place in the English Premiership play-offs with five rounds of the regular season remaining by beating Bath 29-10 on Sunday.
The English title is decided by two semi-finals and a final involving the top four sides in the 12-strong Premiership at the end of a 22-game campaign.
Exeter, the 2016/17 champions, lost to Saracens in last season's final at Twickenham and Sunday's result meant the Chiefs were into the play-off for the fourth year in a row.
League leaders Exeter outscored southwest rivals Bath four tries to one, with Ollie Devoto, Olly Woodburn, Jack Yeandle all crossing in addition to a penalty try.
Joe Simmonds converted two of those tries and also kicked a penalty at Exeter's Sandy Park ground.
Bath had plenty of possession but all they had to show for their efforts on the scoreboard was a try by Nathan Catt and five points from the boot of Wales international Rhys Priestland.
Yet Exeter did not have things all their own way, losing first-choice goalkicker Gareth Steenson shortly before the start with a calf injury and falling 3-0 behind soon afterwards when Priestland kicked a penalty following Ruaridh McConnochie's strong run.
Simmonds equalised for Exeter with a ninth-minute penalty.
Bath, however, regained the lead with a 14-minute try initiated by a break from England centre Jonathan Joseph that took them to within five metres of the Exeter line before Catt, following sustained pressure, went over.
But Exeter responded with two well-taken tries to lead 17-10 at the break.
Bath full-back Tom Homer was robbed of possession on his own 22, with England wing Jack Nowell and Simmonds involved before Devoto went in for the try.
Exeter then went in front for the first time when a well-timed pass from impressive back-row Don Armand sent in Yeandle unopposed.
Simmonds' conversion gave Exeter a seven-point lead at half-time.
Bath made a strong start to the second period only to butcher several good chances. They brought on England back-row Sam Underhill and Beno Obano in a bid to fresh up their pack only for a scrum collapse to give Exeter their next points courtesy of a penalty try.
Obano was yellow-carded for his part in the incident but it was not until he was back on the field that Exeter put the result beyond doubts thanks to Woodburn's try five minutes from time.
? 2019 AFP