Europe awaits for Rob Baxter and his Exeter Chiefs side, but they will head into this season’s Champions Cup brimming with confidence after a nigh-on perfect performance so far in this season’s Gallagher Premiership.
Six wins from six, 29 points out of a possible 30, Devon’s finest are in decent shape as they brace themselves for upcoming heavyweight match-ups against Munster and Castres.
Ahead of those meetings, however,they first had to overcome the stiff challenge of local rivals Bath on their own turf.
For much of Exeter’s early existence in English rugby’s top flight, it was Bath who were deemed the arch nemesis of Baxter and his troops. Countless battles came and went, before the Chiefs finally broke their duck.
In more recent times, it’s the Chiefs who have held the upper hand and they triumphed once more in this latest meeting, securing a fifth bonus point win of the season thanks to tries from Stu Townsend, Don Armand, Matt Kvesic, Ian Whiten and Jack Nowell.
Playmaker Gareth Steenson weighed in with the remainder of the points, his 14-point haul taking him to another milestone, this time the Irishman passed 1,500 Premiership points.
For an hour, Bath were very much in the contest. However, when push came to shove, they struggled to contain their visitors.Rhys Priestland and Chris Cook grabbed a try apiece, while Freddie Burns added 19 points with the boot.
With an unblemished record after five games of the season, Baxter again rotated his playing options for the short trek to the Roman City. Some were enforced following the news earlier in the week that both Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds are both set for lengthy spells on the sidelines, while others were more routine.
Back into the fold came a new-look front-row of Ben Moon, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Harry Williams and they were joined in the pack by the returning Sam Skinner and Armand.Behind, Townsend took over at scrum-half, while Henry Slade and Phil Dollman added their silky prowess to the visiting line-up.
Bath, meanwhile, were much changed from the side that lost at Saracens. Kiwi Director of Rugby Todd Blackadder had decided to make wholesale changes for the clash with the defending champions and it was only Charlie Ewels, skipper Priestland and Rokoduguni, who were kept in the home starting XV.
On a perfect night for rugby, the opening exchanges were largely restricted to a game of kick tennis as both sides looked to gain the territorial edge.
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