Aviva Premiership: Bath bring home narrow win against Exeter
Last Updated: 15/02/14 6:10pm
George Ford: Kicked 12 points in Bath's victory over Exeter
George Ford gave his England credentials a boost as he inspired Bath to a 27-23 Aviva Premiership victory over Exeter at Sandy Park.
The fly-half kicked 12 points and showed excellent game control to give national head coach Stuart Lancaster a timely reminder ahead of next week's Six Nations clash with Ireland.
Ollie Devoto, Kyle Eastmond and Nick Abendanon ran in tries, while Ford's kicking put the decisive touches on a win which extended Bath's 36-year unbeaten run against Exeter.
Exeter, who scored tries through Ben White and Ian Whitten, led 13-10 at half-time but the visitors proved too strong after the interval.
It was a match that was briefly threatened by storms in Devon as winds of up to 80 miles per hour had caused the uprights in front of the south stand to snap, but the posts were repaired and replaced shortly before kick-off.
The Chiefs went into the game with clear intent and their pressure was rewarded after 10 minutes when Bath were penalised at the breakdown in front of the posts.
Fly-half Gareth Steenson slotted between the uprights but from the restart the Chiefs were penalised for going off their feet at the ruck and Ford's kick got Bath back on level terms.
Bath continued to be pinned back deep in their own half and only a knock-on five metres from the line denied the Chiefs an opening try. But it was the visitors who managed to get across the line first as a couple of missed tackles allowed outside centre Devoto to race in from 40 metres.
Ford added the conversion, only for Steenson to reply by kicking his second penalty from the 22-metre line to reduce the arrears, and in the final minute of the half White squeezed over the line from close range and Steenson converted for a 13-10 lead.
Bath's problems at the scrums continued into the second half as they were penalised for collapsing, enabling Steenson's kick to stretch the Chiefs' lead five minutes after the restart as unforced errors crept into the visitors' game.
It served as a wake-up call for Bath and they pushed the Chiefs back until Eastmond juggled the ball before breaking through to score the visitors' second try. Ford's conversion restored their lead.
Bath then began to take control as Abendanon chipped ahead and beat Haydn Thomas and Arscott to get his hands on the ball and dot down, with Ford converting from the left touchline.
Exeter were not prepared to lie down, however, and good work by Ben Moon in midfield set up centre Whitten for a Chiefs try.
Steenson converted to draw his side to within one point but Bath's Ford showed his prowess with a touchline penalty with the last play of the game, putting the gloss on the away side's win.