Premiership: Bath 19-17 Exeter Chiefs

By Nabil HassanBBC Sport at The Rec
Bath fly-half George Ford
Bath fly-half George Ford started two of England's four World Cup games
Bath (10) 19
Try: Hooper Con: Ford Pens: Ford 4
Exeter (11) 17
Try: Short Pens: Steenson 4
Relive Saturday's Premiership action

England fly-half George Ford kicked 14 points to inspire Bath to a narrow victory over Exeter Chiefs in their Premiership opener.

Exeter led 11-10 at the break through an early try from debutant James Short and two Gareth Steenson penalties.

Bath responded with a try from Stuart Hooper, which Ford converted, while also sending over a penalty.

Ford and Steenson traded two penalties after the break, but it was Bath fly-half who won it with a late kick.

The game saw the return of several of England's World Cup contingent, with key members Ford, Anthony Watson and Sam Burgess all seeing game time.

Sam Burgess
Sam Burgess came on at flanker for Bath, but was sin-binned for foul play

A try in the first minute and final 60 seconds lit up the first half, with everything in between a good old-fashioned scrap.

Exeter broke from their own 22 to allow wing Short to go over in the corner almost straight from the kick-off but, after a couple of penalties from Ford and Steenson, it took until the 39th minute for Bath to cross.

Ford created it, finding Watson with a pass, before the England wing bamboozled his opposite number with a side-step and delayed offload to Hooper, who ran in unchallenged.

The England outside-half looked to have given Bath a two-point lead with the resulting conversion, but Steenson's penalty and a yellow for home centre Matt Banahan swung the momentum back Exeter's way.

Ford and Steenson traded kicks after the break as Bath led 16-14, while Henry Slade dropped the ball as he stretched to touch down.

Second-half replacement Burgess was sin-binned for foul play within 20 minutes of his introduction, and from the subsequent penalty Exeter re-took the lead through Steenson.

But in the final minutes Bath stepped up the intensity and Exeter were eventually penalised to give Ford an opportunity to win the game.

Bath head coach Mike Ford told BBC Sport:

"We couldn't build any pressure, the only time we did we scored. We played a very good side today and they will be disappointed.

"We showed a bit of character. Integrating the internationals after a couple of sessions was tough, although I thought they did very well. It's a good job they played. It's a win and we move on.

"Anthony [Watson] and George [Ford] tell me they are alright and you've got to go with what the say. They are going to have a rest over the next four weeks - the season is too brutal to play week in, week out.

"We have to bring Sam [Burgess] up to speed. We didn't put pressure on them to play. Anthony said 'I'm flying and I want to carry on flying'."

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter told BBC Sport:

"We've got to feel we let it slip. We came to win the game - the endeavour we showed was fantastic.

"I can't fault the players for wanting to go out there and play and in a lot of ways it was our best performance in the Premiership.

"That's the closest we've come to winning and it is the most pressure Bath have been under. The truth is I can't remember the amount of opportunities we created on the try line and they've got to turn into tries.

"It's all very well winning penalties in that position but they've got to turn into tries and that will disappoint me when we review the game."

Bath: Homer; Rokoduguni, Banahan, Eastmond, Watson; Ford, Cook; Auterac, Batty, Thomas, Hooper (capt), Attwood, Garvey, Faosiliva, Houston.

Replacements: Webber, Lahiff, Wilson, Burgess, Mercer, Matawalu, Clark, Williams.

Exeter: Dollman; Jess, Whitten, Hill, Short; Steenson (capt), Chudley; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Brown, Lees, Welch, Ewers, Armand, Waldrom.

Replacements: Yeandle, Hepburn, Low, Atkins, Salvi, Lewis, Slade, Woodburn.