Sam Underhill stars as Bath's resurgence continues with Exeter win

Sam Underhill is tackled by Henry Slade
Sam Underhill was seemingly everywhere in Bath's dominant performance - Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images

Bath 41 Exeter 24

With the Christmas markets doing a roaring trade in the heart of the Roman City, on the field Bath Rugby are themselves starting to prosper nicely in the Gallagher Premiership.

Johann van Graan’s side eased their way back into the top two, producing a powerful performance that swept aside the attentions of West Country rivals, Exeter Chiefs.

On a biting afternoon at the famous Rec, the Blue, Black & Whites rekindled the form of past glories to underline they will more than likely have something to say in the title shake-up come the New Year.

Young forward Alfie Barbeary claimed two of the home side’s six tries on the day, but it was his back-row colleague Sam Underhill, who stole the show with a dominant display in the loose.

Alfie Barbeary goes over
Alfie Barbeary scores the first of his two tries and the first of Bath's six - Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images

The England international – a late call-up into Steve Borthwick’s Rugby World Cup plans – was seemingly everywhere, both in attack and defence, and his work around the breakdown was pivotal throughout.

Post-game, Van Graan was quick to hail his ‘Magnificent Seven’ saying: “I thought Sam was really good and had some big moments, not just defensively, but also from an attacking point of view. I thought some of his running lines, his offloading, his decision-making, it was all very good. I thought he was magnificent out there today.”

Having made a glut of changes to his starting line-up ahead of kick-off, Van Graan would have been delighted in the way his side stung into action. They dominated the opening exchanges, breaking the deadlock on seven minutes when Barbeary was able to peel off the back of a close-range maul.

It was a lead they would double not long after, when a slick attack down the right released Cameron Redpath in space. Although the Scotsman was checked by the covering Chiefs defence, the hosts recycled the ball back inside through a couple of phases and there was the young centre once more, gleefully accepting possession before stepping his way to the try-line.

At that stage the Chiefs had hardly threatened, a mounting penalty count hampering their best endeavours. Bath, on the other hand, were proving squeaky clean in the eyes of referee Tom Foley. However, when they did infringe finally, Rob Baxter’s side made them pay immediately.

Elliott Stooke’s indiscretion saw the visitors keep possession deep into Bath territory, the fruits of which saw the Chiefs go off the top of a line-out and in a flash release Henry Slade to glide in under the posts for a much-needed score.

Like Underhill, it seems Slade – a notable omission from England’s World Cup plans – has taken it upon himself to remind head coach Borthwick of his undoubted talents. His start to the season has certainly been impressive and again in this game he was one of Exeter’s brighter stars.

He converted his own score, before adding a penalty just before the turn, to leave little between the two as they headed for the half-time sheds.

Henry Slade breaks free to score
Henry Slade is pivotal to Exeter's successful, youthful rebuild - David Davies/PA Wire

Slade’s experience in this youthful Exeter outfit is imperative moving forward, but the rookies in the visiting ranks were ruthlessly exposed by Bath’s more experienced foes after the break.

Home skipper Ben Spencer raced in for Bath’s third just after the restart, outpacing the Exeter cover as he sniped down the blindside, before half-back partner Finn Russell stretched their lead further with a routine penalty.

Exeter countered at the other end, Stu Townsend – on his first start of the season – sniping his way in under the posts. However, the scrum-half would blot his copybook just moments later, picking up a yellow card that Bath would duly make hay with.

As he watched from the cooler on the sidelines, tries from Joe Cokanasiga, Barbeary and replacement Will Butt effectively ended the contest as a meaningful match-up.

The Chiefs battled valiantly to the death, even picking up a late converted score for replacement Ehren Painter, but it nothing more than a consolation for them and their travelling tribe of supporters.

For Bath, the feel-good factor is back in place and with Europe next on the agenda for them, who knows what the New Year will bring in terms of rich rewards.

Match details

Bath Gallagher; Cokanasiga, Ojomoh (Butt 70), Redpath, Muir; Russell (Harris 72), Spencer (Carr-Smith 75); Obano (Schoeman 70), Dunn (Annett 70), Stuart (Griffin 70); Stooke, Ewels; Reid (van Velze 70), Underhill, Barbeary (Coetzee 75).

Exeter Chiefs Wyatt; Woodburn (Armstrong 64), Slade, Hawkins (Devoto 72), Hammersley; Skinner, Townsend (O’Loughlin 72); Abuladze (Hepburn 40), Yeandle (Norey 52), Iosefa-Scott (Painter 40); Jenkins (Tuima 70), Pearson; Roots, Vermeulen, Fisilau (Davis 72).
Sin bin Townsend.

Referee T Foley. Attendance 14,509.

Scoring sequence  Barbeary try 5-0, Redpath try 10-0, Russell con 12-0, Slade try 12-5, Slade con 12-7, Slade pen 12-10, Spencer 17-10, Russell pen 20-10, Townsend try 20-15, Slade con 20-17, Cokanasiga try 25-17, Russell con 27-17, Barbeary try 32-17, Russell con 34-17, Butt try 39-17, Russell con 41-17, Painter try 41-22, Slade con 41-24.