Exeter Chiefs were described as ‘a complete rugby team’ by Bath Rugby director of rugby Stuart Hooper before the two sides met at Sandy Park on Saturday and his assessment of the defending Gallagher Premiership champions proved to be spot on.
But the sheer gulf between the two sides, both missing a string of internationals, was startling.
Chiefs were not at their absolute best but bullied Bath in almost every area of the game, most notably the scoreboard as they ran out 40-3 winners.
The powerful Devon pack were the foundation of Exeter’s success, setting up a pair of tries for the unstoppable Sam Simmonds to finish inside the first half an hour.
The first saw the Chiefs pack march Bath’s normally formidable scrum, which included the likes of Beno Obano, Tom Dunn and Charlie Ewels, all back from England, over their own try line for the number eight to dot down.
The second was a classic 5m catch and drive operation which Exeter perform with the precision of a surgeon.
The Blue, Black and White provided spirited defiance in defence for long spells of the game but never came close to scoring a try as they were unable to find any cracks in the black shirted wall of defenders who now haven’t conceded a try in 160 minutes of Premiership rugby in 2020/21.
For Bath it was a story of not enough invention, not enough patience, not enough accuracy – albeit against the best side in Europe. Good moments were compounded by errors.
Instead the visitors to Sandy Park, who have suffered rugby nightmares on the Devon turf now on their last three visits, looked to kick long for territory and hope Exeter would falter. They never did. Instead it was Bath who gave away penalties to allow Chiefs field position to launch attacks from or the inspired Facundo Cordero ran the ball back with interest from full back.
Having done the nuts and bolts hard work in the forwards, 31 minutes in Tom O’Flaherty reminded everyone this Chiefs backline is also no slouch either, brilliantly, instinctively volleying on a cross-field kick from Joe Simmonds before winning a footrace with Tom de Glanville to touch the ball down in the huge dead ball area.
That made it 21-3 at half time, with just a Rhys Priestland penalty to show for Bath’s efforts.
And things deteriorated after the break for the away side as last week’s captain Josh McNally was shown a yellow card just after the hour mark for dragging down a maul close to his line. He got 10 minutes, Exeter were awarded a penalty try by referee Christophe Ridley, and the onslaught continued without mercy despite the bonus point having been secured.
Chiefs scored twice more, with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne given a chariot ride to the line by his scrum before dotting the ball down at the back, and Ian Whitten touched down in the corner.
Scarily Chiefs still left points on the field as well and the really bad news for the rest of the Gallagher Premiership is despite Rob Baxter emptying his bench in the final quarter to rest his talismen like the Simmonds brothers, the understudies look stars of the future as well, or at the very least able Premiership players.
Victory takes Exeter back to the top of the table, while Bath are bottom.
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Exeter Chiefs: 15 Facundo Cordero, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder; 1 Ben Moon, 2 Jack Yeandle (capt), 3 Harry Williams, 4 Don Armand, 5 Sam Skinner, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 8 Sam Simmonds
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Will Witty, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Jack Walsh, 23 Tom Hendrickson.
Bath Rugby: 15. Tom de Glanville, 14. Ruaridh McConnochie, 13. Cameron Redpath, 12. Josh Matavesi, 11. Joe Cokanasiga, 10. Rhys Priestland, 9. Ben Spencer; 1. Beno Obano, 2. Tom Dunn, 3. Henry Thomas, 4. Josh McNally, 5. Charlie Ewels (C), 6. Mike Williams, 7. Josh Bayliss, 8. Zach Mercer
Replacements: 16. Jack Walker, 17. Lewis Boyce, 18. Christian Judge, 19. Elliott Stooke, 20. Miles Reid, 21. Will Chudley, 22. Max Clark, 23. Semesa Rokoduguni.
Referee: Christophe Ridley (29th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Jamie Leahy.
TMO: Stuart Terheege.
Citing Officer: Danae Zamboulis
Attendance: Played Behind Closed Doors