Exeter 9-12 Bath, Aviva Premiership, February 26
Barkley boots Bath into top four
February 26, 2011
Barkley boots Bath into top four%]
A late penalty from Olly Barkley secured a vital 12-9 victory for Bath over Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday night.
The former England centre kicked all of his side's points in a hard-fought win, their fifth in a row, with Gareth Steenson landing three shots for the home side in front of a vociferous crowd.
While there were no tries there was plenty of action and Bath will be delighted with a gutsy victory that sees them climb into the play-off places, displacing Northampton, for the first time this season.
The Chiefs went agonisingly close to bagging the first try early on as former Highlanders centre Jason Shoemark breezed through a huge gap and they refused to take their foot off the pedal.
A cross-kick from Steenson narrowly evaded his Kiwi centre but the fly-half added three points when the Bath midfield were penalised for offside.
Barkley was on target to level things up from the tee after Haydn Thomas had been pinged for a high shot on Tom Biggs but Steenson snatched the advantage back for the home side after a powerful maul close to the Bath posts.
Exeter skipper Tom Hayes takes on Bath hooker Lee Mears © Getty Images
Luke Arscott then carved through to put Bath on the back-foot but Barkley was able to intercept at the key moment as James Scaysbrook loomed in support for a possible score against his old club. Nevertheless Steenson's third penalty quickly arrived and rewarded the home side's adventure further.
Barkley closed the gap to three with a penalty just before the break but turned down a kickable effort as Bath went for the jugular after the resumption. A powerful drive set up position from a lineout but Ben Williams knocked on after being sent flying over the try-line by a Michael Claassens dive pass.
The visitors were playing with an advantage however and with 10 metres taken off the kick, Barkley levelled the scores with his third successful effort. Another surge from Shoemark had Bath backtracking just after the hour mark but his kick ahead was snaffled by a retreating Luke Watson, with the crowd's protestations that the Kiwi had been taken out off the ball waved away by referee David Rose.
The home faithful were singing the praises of the officials soon after though as a penalty went their side's way, Butch James pinged for a high tackle on Sireli Naqelevuki, but Steenson was unable to add to his tally as the wind continued to make things difficult for the kickers. A huge scrum, led by the veteran Chris Budgen, then won another shot at goal for Steenson but again the Ulster-born playmaker could only fire wide of the target.
A knock-on from Chiefs wing Nic Sestaret gave Bath vital field position with a matter of minutes remaining and after Barkley had seen two drop-goal attempts charged down the visitors were awarded a penalty, for players in at the side, and there was no mistake from the tee on this occasion.
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