Wing wizard scores wonder try as Chiefs win South West derby

Tom O’Flaherty dives over to help Exeter Chiefs seize the initiative in their eagerly anticipated Premiership West Country derby clash with Bath at Sandy Park last night

Exeter claimed West Country bragging rights with a 40- 3 hammering over Bath at Sandy Park yesterday evening.

Sam Simmonds led the way for Rob Baxter’s men with a brace of first half tries. However, his endeavours were eclipsed by a piece of outrageous individual brilliance from winger Tom O’Flaherty. After Exeter won the ball back on halfway, Joe Simmonds’ cross-field kick was caught perfectly on the volley by O’Flaherty. Showing skills that wouldn’t have looked out of place at St James Park, the Exeter flyer made perfect contact with the ball, outpaced both Rhys Priestland and Tom de Glanville before touching down.

That try perhaps demonstrated just how far Exeter are ahead of the rest as it put them 21-3 to the good and there was no way back for Bath. The second half saw Baxter’s men continue to pile forward in search of further points and the bonus-point was wrapped up through a penalty-try. Further scores by Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Ian Whitten, as time ticked down, pushed Exeter up to the 40-point mark as they completed their second high scoring victory of the season to top the table.

Sandy Park supremo Baxter was boosted in the lead up to Bath making the short trip down the M5 with Sam Skinner and Hidalgo-Clyne both released from Scotland duty after their scheduled Autumn Nations Cup game against Fiji was called off due to a covid-19 outbreak in the Pacific Islanders’ squad.

For Bath, Charlie Ewels made his first appearance in blue, black and white this term, while his fellow forwards Henry Thomas celebrated 100 games for the Somerset outfit and Josh Bayliss 50.

Exeter scored their first try after just 11 minutes when Sam Simmonds picked up from the base of the scrum to finish off a pushover try. His brother Joe kicked the extras and Exeter were 7-0 ahead although three points from the boot of Welsh international Priestland got Bath up and running.

Just shy of the half hour mark, Exeter found themselves within striking distance of the Bath line and with the ball successfully secured from a five metre line out, Sam Simmonds was once again the man to touch down.

With Joe Simmonds unsurprisingly making it a sevenpoint score, Exeter were well in command with O’Flaherty’s moment of genius meaning it was game over for Bath there and then.

After the interval, Bath did camp in Exeter territory but the home side repelled everything Stuart Hooper’s men could throw their way.

Then, on the hour mark, Exeter went through the gears and after merry-whistle-blower Christophe Ridley lost patience with Bath for collapsing maul after maul, a penalty try was awarded. To rub salt into ever increasing Bath wounds, Josh McNally was sent to the sin-bin for ten minutes.

Exeter were then twice – correctly – denied by video referee Stuart Terheege after rumbling over the Bath line. It was a case of third time lucky for Exeter when they eventually did bag a fifth try
as Hidalgo-Clyne registered his first five-pointer for the Devonians. With Joe Simmonds withdrawn at this point, it was down to promising youngster Jack Walsh, who impressed in a secondhalf
cameo, to knock over the successful conversion.

Into the final five minutes and after breaks by Walsh and Ollie Devoto saw Exeter in the Bath 22 again, the ball was shifted wide for Whitten and the veteran Irish centre duly dotted down.

Despite Walsh’s tough conversion attempt drifting just wide, Exeter have demonstrated that the task of the other 11 Premiership club’s, in ensuring the Devonians don’t become back-to-back English champions could prove to be fruitless, even after just two games.

Exeter Chiefs: Cordero, O’Flaherty, Whitten, Devoto, Woodburn, J Simmonds, Maunder; Moon, Yeandle, Williams, Armand, Skinner, Ewers, Kirsten, S Simmonds.
Replacements: Innard, Hepburn, Street, Witty, Capstick, Hidalgo-Clyne, Walsh, Hendrickson.

Bath: De Glanville, McConnochie, Redpath, Matavesi, Cokanasiga, Priestland, Spencer; Obano, Dunn, Thomas, McNally, Ewels, Williams, Bayliss, Mercer.
Replacements: Walker, Boyce, Judge, Stooke, Reid, Chudley, Clark, Rokoduguni.