IN THE SPOTLIGHT: There will be an added intensity in the fight for match points in Round 10 of the Pro14 this weekend as six of the seven fixtures are in-Conference clashes.
Almost every team in the Championship is still vying for either knock-out berths or a shot at the Champions Cup Play-Off game and this weekend presents a great opportunity for rivals to take points off each other.
Round Nine provided plenty of drama and action with 48 tries and three games going right to the wire in Belfast, Port Elizabeth and Cardiff. There was also some unique appearances with 17-year-old Dan Babos becoming the first player born in the millennium (March, 2000) when he came on for Dragons during their loss to Leinster.
In addition, Ruaridh Jackson put in an incredible double shift by first appearing as a late replacement in Scotland's victory over Australia on Saturday before then making his way to Swansea to feature for Glasgow Warriors as they grabbed a bonus-point win over Ospreys.
What's at Stake:
On Friday the Southern Kings host Edinburgh in Port Elizabeth and the visitors will be on their guard given that Deon David's side have picked up four bonus points in their last two outings. Edinburgh came up short to the Cheetahs and will be out to ensure their South African tour returns some valuable points as they aim to stay in the hunt for a Champions Cup Play-Off berth.
Glasgow Warriors face Cardiff Blues in Scotstoun knowing that a win sets them up for a cracking pre-Christmas derby with Edinburgh. Glasgow have won nine games to start the season and two more victories would see them equal Ulster's record of 11 – the best-ever start to a Championship season in 2012/13.
On Saturday, Zebre host Connacht in Parma and with access to their returning Italian internationals they will be hopeful of securing a win that will put them back in contention for a Champions Cup Play-Off spot. Leinster will also travel to Italy to take on Benetton, who will share the same ambitions as Zebre and this could prove to be a very challenging weekend for the travelling Irish provinces.
Munster meet Ospreys at Irish Independent Park and the home team need to collect maximum points in order to keep up with Glasgow Warriors who are now 12 points clear at the top of Conference A. Ospreys come into this one off the back of a record defeat at home to Warriors and a shock result in Cork could re-invigorate their season.
Finally, in the only inter-Conference fixture of the round the Scarlets finish their tour to South Africa where they face the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein looking to add to their bonus-point win over the Southern Kings. Both teams know how valuable these points are with Cheetahs looking to solidify their hold on 3rd place in Conference A while Edinburgh have a firm grip on the Champions Cup Play-Off berth in Conference B.
Pick of the Round - Dragons v Ulster:
Dragons welcome Ulster to Rodney Parade buoyed by the news that Welsh international Ross Moriarty will join the region next season. Ulster have been pushed close lately by the Kings and Benetton and this fixture could be another tight affair where the visitors need the points to ensure Leinster do not usurp them for 2nd place in Conference A.
Top Performers – Round 9:
* Tackles made: 25 Aaron Hall (Ulster)
* Carries: 19 Olly Cracknell (Ospreys) / Matthew Screech (Dragons)
* Defenders beaten: 9 Jordan Larmour (Leinster)
* Offloads: 3 Multiple Players
* Breaks: 3 Multiple Players
* Metres made: 170 Leonardo Sarto (Glasgow Warriors)
* Turnovers won: 3 Dougie Fife (Edinburgh)
* Line-out steals: 2 Lewis Rawlins (Scarlets)
We look at all the Round 10 mtaches!
Friday, December 1:
Dragons v Ulster
(Rodney Parade, Newport - Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Dragons have lost their last four matches in the Pro14 (all away from home) since beating Southern Kings at Rodney Parade on September 30.
Dragons have won their last three matches in Newport in all tournaments since their reversal there to Leinster on the opening weekend of the new season.
Ulster's only defeat in the last four rounds of the Pro14 was 10-25 at home to Leinster on October 28.
Ulster have won twice away from home in the Championship this season, in Treviso in Round two and in Port Elizabeth in Round Eight.
Ulster have won their last five fixtures with Dragons, including a 52-25 victory in Belfast in September.
The Ulstermen have won on their last two visits to Rodney Parade.
Dragons: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Dan Babos, 8 James Benjamin, 7 Ollie Griffiths (captain), 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Gerard Ellis, 18 Sam Hobbs, 19 Rynard Landman, 20 Ben Roach, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Pat Howard.
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Tommy Bowe, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Greg Jones, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O'Connor, 3 Ross Kane, 2 John Andrew, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Callum Black, 18 Andrew Warwick, 19 Matthew Dalton, 20 Chris Henry, 21 John Cooney, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Andrew Trimble.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Mike English (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff Blues
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow - Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Glasgow Warriors made it nine wins out of nine in the Pr14 this season with their 47-6 eclipsing of Ospreys in Swansea on Sunday.
The Scotsmen's only defeat at Scotstoun in the Championship since February came in Round 22 against their fiercest rivals, Edinburgh.
Cardiff Blues have won their last two Pro14 encounters, both at home, to Zebre and Connacht.
Blues only away victory in the Championship this season came on a trip to Connacht in Round Two.
The Warriors have lost just once to the Blues in their last thirteen meetings in the Pro14: 19-23 at Cardiff Arms Park in September 2016, whilst the Welsh Region's most recent success on Glasgow home soil came on a visit to Firhill in February 2011.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Matt Smith, 6 Callum Gibbins (captain), 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Kiran McDonald, 3 Siua Halanukonuka, 2 George Turner, 1 Alex Allan.
Replacements: 16 James Malcolm, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 D’Arcy Rae, 19 Brian Alainu’uese, 20 Samu Vunisa, 21 George Horne, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Niko Matawalu.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Gareth Anscombe (captain), 14 Owen Lane, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Macauley Cook, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Brad Thyer.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Anton Peikrishvili, 19 James Down, 20 Damian Welch, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Rey Lee-Lo, 23 Tom James.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Lloyd Linton (Scotland), Keith Allen (Scotland)
TMO: Andrew Cymene (Scotland)
Southern Kings v Edinburgh
(Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth - Kick-off: 19.30; 17.30 UK time; 17.30 GMT)
Southern Kings are still without a victory in the Pro14 but in the last two rounds they have picked up two losing bonus points and two try bonus points.
The Kings most recent home victory was 35-32 against Sharks in Super Rugby on May 13.
Edinburgh's five-game winning run in all competitions ended in Bloemfontein on Friday, whilst their record on the road in the Championship this season is now won two lost three.
The two teams have never met before.
Southern Kings: 15 Yaw Penxe/Masixole Banda, 14 Michael Makase, 13 Harlon Klassen, 12 Berton Klaasen, 11 Anthony Volmink/Alshaun Bock, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Martinus Burger, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Schalk Ferreira (captain).
Replacements: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Luvuyo Pupuma, 18 Pieter Scholtz, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Dries van Schalkwyk, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Barend Janse van Rensburg, 23 Jacques Nel.
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Fraser McKenzie (captain), 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Neil Cochrane, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Fenton, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Luke Crosbie, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Chris Dean, 23 Glenn Bryce.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Rodney Boneparte (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
Saturday, December 2:
Benetton v Leinster
(Stadio Monigo, Treviso - Kick-off: 16.30; 15.30 UK time; 15.30 GMT)
Benetton have slipped to three straight defeats in the Pro14 since beating Southern Kings 31-3 in Treviso in early October, although they only lost last weekend by a single point thanks to a 79th-minute conversion of Andrew Trimble's 50th Pro14 try against Ulster in Belfast.
Leinster’s only defeat in any competition since September was 21-31 in Glasgow in Round Eight of the Pro14.
The Leinstermen have only once been defeated by an Italian opponent in the Championship: 13-29 to Benetton in Treviso in their very first such encounter, in September 2010.
Leinster have won their last five matches against Benetton Rugby since their 24-all draw at Stadio Monigo in November 2014.
Benetton: 15 Marty Banks, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 11 Luca Sperandio, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Giorgio Bronzini, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Nasi Manu, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Irné Herbst, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Cherif Traore.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Alberto De Marchi, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Sebastian Negri, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 Luca Morisi.
Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Noel Reid, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Ian Nagle, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 James Tracy, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Vakh Abdaladze, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Fergus McFadden, 23 Rory O’Loughlin.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Munster v Ospreys
(Irish Independent Park, Cork - Kick-off: 17.30; 17.30 GMT)
Munster have won their last two matches in the Pro14, both with a try bonus point, at home to Dragons and away to Zebre.
The Munstermen's only home defeat in any tournament since September 2016 was to Scarlets at Thomond Park in the Pro14 in February 2017.
Munster have not been defeated in Cork since Cardiff Blues won there by a single point in Round Two last season.
Ospreys have won just once in the last eight rounds of the Pro14: 28-14 at home to Dragons in Round Seven, whilst they haven't won away from home in the Championship since a trip to Edinburgh on March 3.
Munster's only defeat in their last seven fixtures with Ospreys was 17-21 in Cork in February 2016.
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Sam Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 James Hart, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Liam O’Connor.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Brian Scott, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Darren O’Shea, 20 Sean O’Connor, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Calvin Nash.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 James Hook, 11 Jeff Hassler, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 James King, 7 Will Jones, 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Bradley Davies (captain), 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Rowan Jenkins, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Rob McCusker, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Luke Price, 23 Joe Thomas.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
Cheetahs v Scarlets
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 19.30; 17.30 UK time; 17.30 GMT)
Cheetahs beat Edinburgh 33-13 in Bloemfontein on Friday but have not won successive matches in the Pro14 since September.
Cheetahs only previous encounter with a Welsh opponent was a 44-25 home win over Ospreys in Round Five.
Scarlets have won their last six Pro14 encounters, whilst their only defeat in the Championship since early March was to Ulster in Belfast on September 15.
Scarlets have already beaten Southern Kings home and away this campaign, including a 34-30 victory in Port Elizabeth last weekend, this is their first encounter with the Cheetahs.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Craig Barry, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Makazola Mapimpi, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Rynier Bernardo, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten Van Jaarsveld (captain), 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Jasper Wiese, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Tertius Kruger, 23 Sibhale Maxwane.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny Mcnicholl, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Steff Hughes ©, 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Ioan Nicholas, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Will Boyde, 7 James Davies, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Dylan Evans.
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Rhys Fawcett, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Steven Cummins, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Ioan Hughes, 23 Morgan Williams.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stephen Geldenhuys (South Africa), Jaco Kotze (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Zebre v Connacht
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma - Kick-off: 14.15; 12.15 UK time. 12.15 GMT)
Zebre have slipped to four straight defeats in the Pro14 since beating Ulster 27-23 in Parma at the end of September.
Zebre have scored at least one try in all matches they have played this season, but their only two try bonus points both came on their mini-tour to South Africa in September.
Connacht's four-game winning run in all competitions came to an end in Cardiff last weekend.
Connacht have lost their last five away games in the Pro14 since beating Edinburgh 22-19 at Myreside in April.
Zebre achieved their first ever victory over Connacht in Parma in April – a game which was replayed after the original encounter in September had been abandoned at half-time due to lightning, with Zebre 22-10 ahead.
Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 David Sisi, 20 Jacopo Sarto, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Ciaran Gaffney.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Tom Farrell, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Steve Crosbie, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 James Connolly, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 James Cannon, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Cillian Gallagher, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Eoin Griffin.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Gianluca Gnecchi
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
PREMIERSHIP SATURDAY WRAP: Kearnan Myall popped up at the death to earn Wasps a 32-25 win over Leicester Tigers in a Premiership thriller at the Ricoh Arena.
With the teams level heading into the final seconds, Myall showed all his strength to burst through a gap and over – giving Wasps the bonus point and a fifth straight win over Tigers in the process.
Gloucester Rugby made it five Premiership wins in a row for the first time since 2011 and climbed into the top four of the table after Billy Burns put London Irish to the sword.
Exeter Chiefs will head off on their European odyssey top of the Premiership pile after putting Bath to the sword at Sandy Park to win 42-29.
Wasps 32-25 Leicester
It was Leicester who had flown out of the blocks and were almost over in the first minute, eventually having to settle for three points from George Ford after home side infringed.
They stretched their lead when skipper Tom Youngs crossed after a long period of Tigers dominance and it seemed the visitors might be taking control.
However, Wasps have shown under Dai Young that they can score and quickly, and they turned the game on its head before half-time with Danny Cipriani pulling the strings on his return to the starting line-up. First Nizaam Carr finished off a sweeping move after he took a beautiful delayed pop pass by Dan Robson, who then went over for the second.
Elliot Daly added a further penalty on the stroke of half-time to give Wasps a 17-10 lead but Leicester fought back with two tries from former Wasps wing Jonah Holmes, the first set up by Valentino Mapapalangi, the second and intercept.
Wasps hit straight back, first with a penalty from Gopperth, followed by a brilliant try from aly in the corner after working the overlap to reclaim the lead at 25-22.
Still Leicester kept coming though, with Holmes almost completing his hat-trick, only to be denied on the line by Robson’s steal.
Tigers were not done though and another Ford penalty levelled the game with ten minutes to go before Kearnan Myall's late intervention.
Tries: Carr, Robson, Daly, Myall
Cons: Gopperth 3
Pens: Daly, Gopperth
Tries: T Youngs, Holmes 2
Cons: Ford 2
Pens: Ford 2
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 James Gaskell, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Ashley Johnson (captain), 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Marcus Garratt, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Gaby Lovobalavu, 23 Josh Bassett.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Jonah Holmes, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Will Evans, 6 Valentino Mapapalangi, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Mike Williams, 21 Ben White, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Matt Smith.
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Paul Dix
TMO: David Sainsbury
Gloucester 39-15 London Irish
First-half tries from Lewis Ludlow and Billy Burns along with the boot of Billy Twelvetrees opened up a 20-8 lead for the Cherry & Whites – who are unbeaten at Kingsholm this season.
The Exiles had Petrus du Plessis go over for a try in the first half but when David Paice saw red, it was one-way traffic from then on.
Burns grabbed his second, Jake Polledri darted clear for Gloucester's fourth and a bonus point before Burns' perfect kick to the corner gave Henry Purdy a sublime score.
The Exiles – who grabbed a second of their own through Teofilo Paulo – stay rooted to the bottom of the standings, their only league win still their season opener against Harlequins at Twickenham.
Ludlow burst onto a Burns pass that looked almost forward to dot down under the posts for the first try.
Joe Cokanasiga's break earned a penalty though and got Irish on the board through Tommy Bell, trailing 3-7.
But Twelvetrees slotted two penalties of his own before Du Plessis rumbled over at the back of a maul.
That made it 13-8 to the hosts but after mounting pressure on the Irish line, eventually it was Burns who dived over for Gloucester's second.
Twelvetrees added the extras to make it 20-8 at the break, although the Exiles also lost Paice to a red card for an off-the-ball tackle on Willi Heinz.
And after half time Johan Ackermann's Cherry and Whites turned on the style, Burns the next to go over for his second of the game after a fine floated Twelvetrees pass released him.
And the hosts had the bonus point before the hour mark when Polledri stretched his legs to burst clear for his first try ever league try.
Irish grabbed a second, despite their numerical disadvantage when Paulo went over from close range, but Gloucester kept coming and Burns produced a lovely kick to the corner for Purdy to grab their fifth.
Tries: Ludlow, Burns 2, Polledri, Purdy
Cons: Twelvetrees 4
Pens: Twelvetrees 2
For London Irish:
Tries: Du Plessis, Paulo
Red Card: David Paice (London Irish, 40)
Gloucester: 15 Tom Hudson, 14 Henry Purdy, 13 Andy Symons, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 James Hanson, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Will Safe, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Matt Scott, 23 Mark Atkinson.
London Irish: 15 James Marshall, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Tommy Bell, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Blair Cowan, 7 Max Northcote-Green, 6 Mike Coman, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 David Paice (captain), 1 Harry Elrington.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Greig Tonks, 23 Tom Fowlie.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace, Philip Watters
TMO: Sean Davey
Exeter Chiefs 42-29 Bath
The Chiefs were running away with the contest at the halfway point as Luke Cowan-Dickie, James Short, Mitch Lees and Don Armand all crossed the whitewash in the first half.
Freddie Burns’ penalty was all the visitors could muster before the interval, but it did get a little better after that despite Thomas Waldrom scoring before the hour mark – meaning ‘the Tank’ has now touched down against every side in the Premiership during his career.
Gareth Steenson – who also knocked over a flawless six conversions – scored Exeter’s sixth, but four late tries from a battling Bath meant they did at least take a bonus point back home.
It was hooker Cowan-Dickie’s first start in a Chiefs jersey since their historic the Premiership Final victory at Twickenham, and he took no time at all to settle back in.
The four-time England international burrowed over with a pick-and-go, as Exeter piled on the pressure with 17 unbroken phases in Bath territory.
Steenson converted, and the pressure continued from there as Bath initially repelled a trademark Exeter rolling maul after 12 mins, but soon found the ball back in their own 22.
And Short collected Olly Woodburn’s pass behind him, fended off Anthony Watson one-handed and wriggled into the corner for his side’s second – Steenson again adding the extras.
A push in the lineout saw Bath awarded 28th-minute penalty and Burns got them on the scoreboard, but straight away the Chiefs went up the other end and scored a third.
Waldrom punched a hole through the middle and Exeter were again relentless inside the 22, Lees eventually the beneficiary to dive over through a mass of bodies under the posts.
With 30 minutes on the clock the Chiefs had enjoyed 69 per cent of the possession, and as the hosts’ forwards again drove for the line from short range over and over again, Armand sealed the four-try bonus point.
It took Exeter 15 minutes into the second period to score again, as Waldrom completed his career set to score against every defence in the Premiership, but when Joseph scored a breakaway try after forcing Woodburn to knock on Bath sniffed a chance of a point.
And despite Steenson collecting Short’s pass to score Exeter’s sixth in the corner moments later, Bath scored twice more quickly through Anthony Watson and Aled Brew – setting up an intriguing finish with Todd Blackadder desperate for a bonus.
Replacement Matt Banahan then came to the fore with just seconds remaining, as the powerful winger scythed through the hosts’ line from 22 metres out to notch the bonus-point clinching try.
Tries: Cowan-Dickie, Short, Lees, Armand, Waldrom, Steenson
Cons: Steenson 6
Tries: Joseph, Watson, Brew, Banahan
Cons: Joseph, Priestland 2
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Nic White, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Don Armand, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Jack Nowell.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Paul Grant, 7 Zach Mercer, 6 Matt Garvey (captain), 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 James Phillips, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Matt Banahan.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Peter Allan
TMO: Claire Hodnett