James Short’s try double helped Exeter Chiefs complete the most unlikely of comebacks against Bath Rugby, fighting from 11-0 down to win 17-11 and secure a first ever Aviva Premiership triumph at The Rec.
Though Short was the man to cross, England winger Jack Nowell turned in a man-of-the-match performance on the other wing to signal his intent to Eddie Jones on the day he named his Elite Player Squad and RBS 6 Nations training squad.
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Semesa Rokoduguni played a remarkable first half for Bath Rugby, very nearly going 60 metres to score a solo try – only to be denied by Nowell – before later powering through two tackles to score Bath’s only try.
Nowell’s interventions were crucial in shifting the momentum in the second period – try-saving tackles, athletic high ball takes and the break to create Short’s second score.
Anthony Watson also made his first appearance since October on a lively night for wingers in The British & Irish Lions selection contest.
George Ford had given Bath the lead with a penalty after 18 minutes following a scrum infringement and he doubled that from the tee ten minutes later.
A Class performance from @nowellsy15 today – a joy to watch ??
— Mark Cueto (@Mark_Cueto) December 31, 2016
Rokodouguni provided the game with its standout moments in the first period. First, a searing break that started with him plucking a ball from the sky, spinning through two tackles and then racing away only to be hauled down by Nowell.
The two-cap England winger then started the move that led to Bath’s try, busting from deep and then barrelling through two tackles and reaching to finish given little room in the right hand corner after half an hour.
Ford missed the conversion, but with Bath leading 11-0 at half time and dominating in more or less every facet of the game – Exeter looked buried.
A photo posted by Anthony Watson (@anthonywatson_) on
Watson appeared from the bench after 50 minutes and very nearly went over for a try, only to be denied by England teammate Nowell before Gareth Steenson got Chiefs moving with a penalty on 62 minutes.
The fightback begins:
With the clock running down, Exeter’s chances looked to be slipping away, but Cowan-Dickie – who initially appeared to spill the ball as he bullocked into contact – managed to juggle in possession and palm the ball to winger Short, who was free to score, with Steenson’s perfect conversion taking Rob Baxter’s side to 11-10 behind.
There was still time for man-of-the-match Nowell to light up The Rec with a punchy break that meant when the ball was shifted wide – and through the legs of Steenson – Short could coast over and send Exeter into third place.