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RUGBY: Exeter Chiefs 23 Bath 27
6:24pm Saturday 15th February 2014 in Sport
George Ford showed he is ready and on form if required by England as he booted 12 points and showed excellent game control in Bath's 27-23 win at Exeter.
It was a timely reminder from the fly-half as England head coach Stuart Lancaster prepares for the RBS 6 Nations clash with Ireland next Saturday at Twickenham.
Exeter led 13-10 at half-time at Sandy Park after a late try from Ben White, converted by Gareth Steenson who also kicked two earlier penalties. Bath's reply had come through an Ollie Devoto try, converted by George Ford who also added a penalty.
Ford kicked a further penalty and added the extras to second-half tries from Kyle Eastmond and Nick Abendanon as Bath extended their 36-year unbeaten run against Exeter.
For the home side, the replies after the interval came in the shape of an Ian Whitten try, converted by Steenson who also added a penalty.
It was a match that was briefly threatened by storms in Devon.
Winds of up to 80 miles per hour had hit the south west on Friday evening and caused the uprights in front of the south stand to snap.
They had to be taken away to local firms to be welded before being put back in place a couple of hours before kick-off.
Exeter made changes in the pack with Tom Johnson, released from the England camp, at blindside flanker, with White at openside and Hoani Tui recalled at tighthead prop.
Bath had Wales loosehead prop Paul James and England squad members Dave Attwood at lock, Eastmond at centre, Ford at number 10 and Anthony Watson at full-back in their starting line-up.
The Chiefs went into the game with clear intent, restricting the visitors to only one venture out of their half. Exeter's patience was rewarded after 10 minutes when Bath were penalised at the breakdown in front of the repaired posts.
Fly-half 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. A couple of missed tackles then allowed outside centre Devoto to race in from 40 metres to touch down for the opening try.
Ford added the conversion, only for the Chiefs to chase a kick ahead from centre Phil Dollman. Full-back Luke Arscott was quickly up on defenders Horacio Agulla and Matt Banahan who were penalised for not releasing the ball.
That allowed Steenson to kick his second penalty from the 22 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, as they pushed the Chiefs back until Eastmond juggled the ball before breaking through to score the visitors' second try, and Ford's conversion restored their lead.
Bath showed their experience 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 and good work by Ben Moon in midfield set up centre Whitten for a Chiefs try.
Steenson converted but Bath's Ford showed his prowess with a touchline penalty with the last play of the game, sealing the away side's win.
REACTION TO BATH'S WIN AT WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK/SPORT AND IN NEXT WEEK'S WILTSHIRE TIMES
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