The Exeter Chiefs kept their hopes of a domestic and European double alive with a 35-6 win over Bath in a controversial semi-final on Saturday.
The Chiefs, who progressed to the Premiership for the fourth season in a row, will meet Wasps – who thrashed the Bristol Bears in the first playoff – at Twickenham.
A brace from lock Johnny Hill, to go with tries from hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, fullback Stuart Hogg and centre Ollie Devoto, who scored against his former club, proved too big a mountain for Wasps to climb.
However, Wasps will have full right to feel aggrieved as Hill narrowly escaped being red-carded by experienced referee Luke Pearce, who decided to show a yellow card after consulting with TMO Wayne Barnes. It certainly appeared that in attempting to clean a player out at a breakdown, Hill had made contact with the head and neck area and most certainly did not use his arms, which may have given Pearce justification to show a red card.
Regardless, Exeter deserve credit for their ruthlessness in the final third. Bath had all the possession and territory in the opening exchanges but, by contrast, could only come away with two penalties from flyhalf Rhys Priestland. Their only real try-scoring opportunity came when Ruaridh McConnochie knocked the ball on while diving over in the corner.
Meanwhile, Exeter made sure to come away with a try in their very first visit to the Bath 22 when after a quick-tap penalty Hill forced his way over. Moments later, Hogg made an linebreak and ran deep into Bath territory, before Cowan-Dickie scored to give the home side a 14-6 lead at the break.
Upon Hill’s return from his yellow card in the second half, Exeter scored almost straight away as No 8 Sam Simmonds broke a tackle and sent Hogg over in the corner. The Scotland fullback then turned provider as he sidestepped his way near the line, before the ball was recycled to give Hill his second try. The result was ultimately decided when Joe Simmonds sprinted past his opposite number and sent Devoto through to score Exeter’s fifth try.
Exeter Chiefs – Tries: Johnny Hill (2), Luke Cowan-Dickie, Stuart Hogg, Ollie Devoto. Conversions: Joe Simmonds (5).
Bath – Penalties: Priestland (2).
Exeter Chiefs – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (c), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Subs: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Ian Whitten.
Bath – 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Charlie Ewels (c), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Subs: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Josh Matavesi, 23 Tom de Glanville.
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