The Anglo-Welsh Cup semi finals took place this weekend against the backdrop of the penultimate Six Nations weekend, with the tournament taking on a distinct West Country feel in the knockout stage. Gloucester will host a south west derby as Bath face Exeter in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final next weekend. Both matches were decided by penalties kicked by young fly-halves; Josh Lewis for Bath and Joe Simmonds of Exeter were the heroes, and also named the man-of-the-match in each game.
Bath Rugby 13 Northampton Saints 12
On Friday night in terrible conditions Bath scraped past a determined Northampton side to reach their first cup final in ten years. Bath, the only side in the tournament with a perfect record, almost succumbed to four Steven Myler penalties after taking an early 10-0 lead.
As we can see below, weather conditions were not going to allow for flowing rugby so it became a battle of tactical kicking and core skill ability.
This is how Bath scored the only try of the match, starting with an excellent kick to the corner by fly-half Josh Lewis. Following the lineout, Northampton couldn’t secure ball at the ruck and the ball squirted out for Levi Douglas to grab and roll over the line.
A big thank you has to go out to the unsung heroes tonight at the Rec! 🔵⚫️⚪️ pic.twitter.com/wEOm87awn3
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) March 9, 2018
The Saints clawed their way back into the game, and went into half time only one point behind. Myler kicked his fourth penalty to give Northampton the lead on 56 minutes. But the balance of the game was tipped by a red card to Saints Number Eight Teimana Harrison in the last 15 minutes.
Red Card for Teimana Harrison
The controversial moment came from a ruck clearout with Nathan Catt, where Harrison retaliated with an attempted headbutt. Following a TMO review, Harrison was shown a red card. You can watch the incident and decide if you agree below:
"He led Northampton out on his 100th appearance, but he leaves in disgrace."
Teimana Harrison is shown the red card after a moment of madness. pic.twitter.com/MajMep4SkC
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) March 9, 2018
Josh Lewis slotted the resulting penalty, that proved to be Bath’s only points in the second half. This was enough for them to hold on to win 13-12, despite the Saints toiling for 17 phases into the 83rd minute.
Exeter Chiefs 20 Newcastle Falcons 17
In the second semi-final, a strong Newcastle Falcons side came up just short against a blended Exeter Chiefs side at Sandy Park. The home side reached their fourth consecutive Anglo-Welsh Cup final but it was far from a formality.
The first try of the match came from a fantastic break from Argentine international Santiago Cordero who cut through from the half-way line before releasing Stu Townsend to score. The Falcons came back with two tries, from Kyle Cooper and Simon Hammersley. The second, which you can watch below, was a fine example of the flowing rugby Newcastle are now producing regularly.
What a try 👏
Brilliant rugby from Newcastle Falcons as they tear through Exeter. pic.twitter.com/dRUQo6TFmj
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) March 11, 2018
After going in at half time 17-7 down, Exeter managed to swing momentum in their favour during the second half. A try and conversion from fly-half Joe Simmonds pulled them within touching distance, and the Chiefs’ scrum started to dominate. A Simmonds penalty leveled the scores at 17-17 after 65 minutes, and both sides reverted to tactical kicking in deteriorating weather conditions.
It remained tight and Exeter eventually made the pressure count, earning a penalty at the breakdown just outside the Newcastle 22m line. Joe Simmonds duly slotted and the Chiefs looked set for the final. However like Northampton, Newcastle were not done, and they were able to keep force a penalty in the Exeter half. With the wind dying down, Joel Hodgson elected to kick for goal from 40m but his attempt fell just short under the bar.
Anglo-Welsh Cup Final
The Anglo-Welsh Cup Final will take place at Kingsholm, Gloucester on Sunday 18th March at 3pm, following all the excitement of the Six Nations final day on Saturday. Neither Bath nor Exeter have European commitments so will be raring to focus back on the Aviva Premiership. But the chance for silverware should still ensure a competitive final before the league run-in.
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