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Exeter's play-off hopes suffer huge blow as Bath move off bottom

By PA
Joe Cokanasiga celebrats scoring in the corner - PA

Exeter’s Gallagher Premiership play-off hopes suffered a huge blow as Bath shredded the form book to claim a 36-19 victory at the Recreation Ground.

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It was Bath’s first Premiership win this year, ending a run of five successive league defeats to climb off the Premiership basement.

But Exeter, who needed a win to stay in touch with the top four, now have it all to do with just three games left in their Premiership campaign.

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Bath claimed five tries as centres Cameron Redpath and Ollie Lawrence, prop Beno Obano, wing Joe Cokanasiga and hooker Tom Dunn all scored, while scrum-half Ben Spencer kicked four conversions and Piers Francis landed a late penalty.

Exeter led until just before half-time, yet they had to content themselves with tries for centre Solomone Kata, prop Scott Sio and replacement hooker Jack Yeandle, with England centre Henry Slade adding two conversions.

While the Chiefs will feel they still have a play-off chance, time is running out and they are eight points behind fourth-placed London Irish.

Lawrence returned from injury for Bath, while his former Worcester team-mate Ted Hill featured for the first time since January, with prop Will Stuart and Redpath also starting.

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Exeter welcomed back Wales forwards Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza following the Guinness Six Nations, replacing Jannes Kirsten (concussion) and Jacques Vermeulen (foot injury), and Slade was restored in midfield alongside Kata.

Bath made a blistering start and were ahead after eight minutes following a brilliant solo try by Redpath.

The Scotland international set off from just inside his own half and proceeded to beat four Exeter defenders before touching down in the corner, with Spencer’s conversion opening up a seven-point advantage.

But the lead was short-lived as Exeter drew level from their first concerted attack of the game after patient build-up play ended with Kata crossing from close range and Slade converting.

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Exeter Bath Cameron Redpath
Cam Redpath scores for Bath – PA

Exeter then lost scrum-half Sam Maunder, who was carried off, while Kata required a head injury assessment following a high Obano challenge that saw the England prop yellow-carded by referee Karl Dickson.

Despite the upheaval, though, Exeter scored a second try in the 23rd minute as Sio made his power tell after sustained close-range pressure, and Slade’s conversion made it 14-7.

But just when it looked as if Exeter might seize control, Bath struck with a second converted try as Obano’s touchdown rewarded patient work by the forwards, and Spencer added the extras.

And before Exeter could regroup, Bath were at it again when Cokanasiga showcased his trademark strength and pace by capitalising on fly-half Orlando Bailey’s kick into space.

Bath Exeter Joe Cokanasiga
Joe Cokanasiga – PA

The England international still had it all to do, yet he bumped off Chiefs full-back Josh Hodge and brushed aside wing Olly Woodburn’s challenge for Bath’s third try that secured a 19-14 interval lead.

Bath claimed a bonus-point try within six minutes of the restart, with Exeter struggling to contain a resurgent home pack, and Dunn’s score converted by Spencer left the Chiefs 12 points adrift.

And Exeter then had hooker Dan Frost sin-binned for a high challenge on Bailey as Bath looked to turn the screw.

Lawrence scored their fifth try, again converted by Spencer, as Bath moved past 30 points, and although Yeandle stormed over on the hour mark, Exeter still had it all to do, trailing 33-19.

And there was no way back for the visitors as Bath claimed a rare five-point maximum to move above Newcastle into 10th place.

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