LV= Cup: Exeter book final berth after comeback win over Bath
Last Updated: 09/03/14 4:37pm
Exeter will enjoy home advantage in the LV= Cup final after claiming a 22-19 victory over Bath in the last four.
The Chiefs had not beaten their West Country rivals since 1978 but came from behind to set up a showdown with Northampton at Sandy Park next Sunday.
Bath surged into the lead after just 27 seconds at the Rec as Leroy Houston finished off an explosive move by diving over in the left corner.
But the hosts were unable to build on the early strike and the Chiefs eventually fought their way back into the contest after a brace of tries from Luke Arscott.
A third try, this time a wonderful solo effort from Fetu'u Vainikolo, put them into the lead and Bath could not turn things back in their favour as Tom Heathcote missed a penalty which would have brought the scores level as time expired.
Bath will be left to rue a missed opportunity after enjoying a dream start when Guy Mercer claimed the ball from the kick-off before Nick Abendanon surged through a gap and handed off to Horacio Agulla, who played in Houston after being tackled.
Heathcote added the extras but Bath then saw precious little of the ball for the next five minutes as Exeter hit back with a good spell of pressure, although it yielded only three points from the boot of Henry Slade.
Bath finally broke out through Houston, Semesa Rokoduguni and Nathan Catt to earn a penalty - kicked by Heathcote - as the home side exerted some pressure of their own.
Both sides were playing well on the counter and Bath were so stretched from one break that Gavin Henson was sin-binned for handling the ball at a ruck on his own 22-metre line.
Exeter tried to capitalise on the numerical advantage and were rewarded in the 26th minute when Arscott took an inside pass from Tom James to score in the corner.
Slade missed the conversion and squandered a penalty soon afterwards, with Heathcote not making the same mistake as he slotted a kick through the posts to make it 13-8 to the hosts.
The fly-half extended the lead to 16-8 soon after the half-time break but then saw his chip over the top collected by Arscott, who returned the kick through some shoddy tackling for a try under the posts.
Exeter were still a point adrift but soon went in front as Arscott this time fed replacement wing Vainikolo, who left numerous Bath defenders floundering as he sped 55 metres for another converted try.
Heathcote maintained his 100 per cent record from the tee to cut Exeter's lead to three points just after the hour mark, while a lengthy injury delay for Chiefs forward James Hanks broke up the final few minutes.
Bath had one last chance to take the game into extra time but Heathcote, who had not yet missed a single kick, misfired with a last-gasp long-range effort.
LV= Cup 2013/14 semi-finals
Exeter boss Rob Baxter will tell his players to enjoy the build-up to next week's LV= Cup final at Sandy Park.
Mark McCall rued Marcelo Bosch's try after his Saracens side lost to Northampton in the LV= Cup semi-final.
George Pisi scored a hat-trick as Northampton booked their spot in the LV= Cup final with a 26-7 victory over Saracens.