Fixture: Exeter University 1st XV vs. University of Bath 1st XV
Date and Time: Wednesday 9 November 2011, 19:30
Score: Exeter University 16 – University of Bath 14
Venue: Sandy Park, Exeter
This season, the University of Bath men’s 1st XV have been on superb form displaying outstanding team work and work ethic that has helped overcome some of the best rugby universities throughout the country.
However, a true test of character would be examined when the side travelled to the South West to take on their rivals, Exeter University, and the fantastic location of Sandy Park, Exeter Chiefs stadium.
Heading into this match, much had been discussed about the environment that these players would be entering.
Memories from last year helped the players with their preparations and there appeared to be confidence throughout the side as the bus arrived at the ground, and focus was etched on all faces as the side walked in front of the stand and down the tunnel.
Before kick off, the team emerged from their changing room led by the tall, imposing figure of Captain Jamie Collins, and ran out into the pressure cooker, made ever so daunting by the sheer volume of Exeter supporters.
From the off, there was tension and nerves shown by both sets of players but there was not a lack of commitment or physicality shown by any player on the turf at Sandy Park.
The first breakthrough came when an Exeter player presented Bath’s fly half Zak Vinnicombe with a penalty.
At most university games there is silence for the kicker, however at this particular game, there was no such thing with Vinnicombe experiencing a loud and distracting reception from the local students and also the match commentator.
However, to the credit of Bath’s fly half, Vinnicombe showed nerves of steel and steely concentration and kicked the three points to give Bath the lead.
The next score came when Exeter broke through the defensive line of Bath, a feat that has become almost non-existent during this season’s campaign and a phase later Exeter had crossed the try line. The resultant conversion was subsequently missed which made the score 5-3 to the home side.
The end of the half neared, and the tension increased. Vinnicombe managed to add another penalty to put Bath back in the lead.
Bath were then under pressure but despite that showed a glimpse of attacking flare when from a maul deep inside Bath’s half, scrum half Matt Keyte managed to rip the ball from the Exeter forwards, sprint half the pitch and off-load the ball to his half back partner Vinnicombe who burst onto the ball and was only stopped by a magnificent last gasp tackle from an Exeter player.
From the ensuing play, Bath managed to turn the ball over and score on the brink of half time through No. 8 Will Skuse.
Unfortunately, Vinnicombe was unable to convert meaning the half time score was exactly what Bath wanted, Exeter 5 – University of Bath 11.
The second half began and from the off Bath were under pressure not only from the on looking home supporters and players, but also the referee.
The Bath forwards, particularly at the scrum, were having a real tough time interpreting the referee’s views and seemed to be penalised for everything they did. From this, Exeter began to get the upper hand across the field.
A penalty shortly followed for Exeter and was duly converted from their fly half.
The pressure began to mount up on the away side, but their effort never faltered.
Another penalty conceded by Bath gave the opportunity to the Exeter kicker to level the scores. Encouraged by the home supporters, he managed to do so making the scores 11-11.
At this point, the home crowd were really getting behind their team through the means of singing, chanting and shouting. The home players responded.
Strong running from the Exeter forwards meant they were able to break through the Bath defensive line. A missed knock on from the referee resulted in a try during the next phase of play, with the Exeter tight head powering over in the corner.
The conversion was missed making it Exeter 16 – Bath 11.
The pressure never faltered on the away side, however Bath showed glimpses of the attacking threat they have shown in previous matches.
A standout player who proved elusive to tackle was Bath winger Sam Miller and it was his initial break down the wing which provided Vinnicombe to slot a perfectly struck drop goal which sailed through the middle of Exeter’s posts to add another three points to the score.
Sadly, this was to be the last score of the game.
Exeter closed the game out well and when the final whistle blew, the distraught faces on the Bath players showed exactly what it meant to them.
In the dressing room afterwards, silence descended upon the players, only to be broken by the strong, emotional words from Collins and Vinnicombe who laid the law down for the weeks to come.
The final score for this match was Exeter University 16 – University of Bath 14.