Exeter fought past a difficult start to beat Bath 24-39 in a bonus-point victory at the Rec.
14 points from the boot of Gareth Steenson, as well as five tries ensured that Exeter would travel back to the South coast victorious.
While Bath’s opening try came through Semesa Rokoduguni’s brilliant chip for Rhys Priestland to score, Exeter’s reply was one of opportunistic delight. Stu Townsend spotted uncertainty in Freddie Burns’ thinking, and the Chiefs scrum-half intercepted, crossing the line despite Burns’ best defensive efforts.
Minutes later, Exeter were in again, this time by virtue of Don Armand’s trademark power in finishing from close range.
Armand benefitted from the questionable positioning of Burns, who was making the switch to fullback in the absences of Tom Homer and Anthony Watson.
In truth, Exeter were struggling to impose their obvious authority on the game in the opening stanza; Bath dominated the set-piece and looked effective physically in both attack and defence.
When Burns kicked Bath into an early second-half lead, Todd Blackadder was dreaming of victory over last season’s Premiership finalists in what would’ve been true vindication for the Kiwi’s decision to rest 13 players for the trip to Saracens last weekend.
These hopes would remain alive while Exeter failed to compose themselves, making simple errors rarely seen in the South-West.
But eventually, the Chiefs came good, running in three tries in an extraordinary second-half surge in which Bath’s dreams were shattered.
Despite Chris Cook’s fine finish in the closing minutes and Joe Cokanasiga’s best efforts to bring Bath close, the result was never in doubt for Exeter whose record remains unblemished.
Greater challenges await for the Chiefs, who remain intent on righting the wrongs of last season’s disappointing European campaign as they host Munster next weekend.
Bath now lie in 7th, at risk of sliding down the table with only two wins from their opening six games, and they too face an onerous task in the Heineken Champions Cup next week as Toulouse travel to the Rec.