Bath Rugby kicked off the New Year in style with a huge home win over London Irish. Three tries from Anthony Perenise, Michael Claassens and a penalty try, added to 15 points from the boot of Stephen Donald proved far too much for visitors, who could only manage to score one penalty all game. Final Score Bath Rugby 30 London Irish 3.
London Irish did not start the game well with the kick-off going out on the full, providing Bath with the first opportunity to attack. As the heavens opened on the Recreation Ground, the handling from both sides suffered as the ball became increasingly greasy. However, as the game reached 15 minutes played, Bath appeared to be the more dominant of the two sides with a handful of promising phases of play.
Irish seemed to be playing the territory game with the majority of play sending the ball high and deep into the Bath 22, full-back Nick Abendanon dealing with the slippery conditions superbly. In addition, Bath too were keen to put Irish's back three under pressure, and a well weighted kick put Irish full-back Delon Armitage under scrutiny as he sliced a clearance kick, which only landed a short distance away, into the hands of the waiting Dave Attwood. A great counter attack from the lock seemed to be the pivotal play that ignited the Bath onslaught. The forwards kept the ball tight and with phase after phase they made their way nearer to the Irish try line. After the backs added their contribution by drawing out the Irish backs, the forwards once again initiated their route one style of play, and after some great ball retention, the pack were awarded with a close-range try, prop Perenise the scorer. Fly-half Donald converted. 7-0.
That try seemed to have sparked the Bath pack's fuse as, after some further tactically precise kicking, the forwards powered their way towards the Irish line once more. More tight play was slowly but surely making progress, and patience seemed to have prevailed as Bath appeared to have scored from close quarters again. However, after the referee had sought the advice of the TMO for the second time, Perenise was prevented from grabbing his brace of tries as his effort was deemed to have been knocked forwards.
Irish regrouped and cleared their lines, but with Bath high in confidence, they worked their way up the field again. A late hit on Donald by flanker Jamie Gibson, enabled the Kiwi to increase his side's lead to 10 with a successful penalty conversion. 10-0.
As the half drew to a close, Irish did claw back a penalty shortly after with a strike from winger Tom Homer. 10-3.
Bath looked ever so dangerous as two minutes remained of the half. A great step from Irish fly-half Steven Shingler evaded a Bath defender inside his 22 and as he made good ground, he offloaded to his winger, Topsy Ojo who fumbled the ball. His opposite number, Olly Woodburn, showed lightning quick reactions, scooping up the ball and making the 33 metre dash for the try line. The crowd up on their feet, Woodburn sprinted down the try line, but to be tackled well metres short by a good covering defence. Half time score, Bath 10 London Irish 3.
Bath started the second half with the upper hand as the back's kicking out of hand was keeping the Irish side stuck in their own half. A well replied clearance kick saw the whole team linking up well, resulting in a fluid period of play. As Bath ground their way nearer to the try line, Irish came offside allowing Donald to slot his second successful penalty kick. 13-3.
Bath soon after demonstrated their defensive prowess with some superb on-the-line tackling. An attacking Irish ball fed the waiting backline, and a slick move looked like it was about to be played out, with Homer hitting a great line. However, despite his great angle of running, he ran in to a well set Matt Carraro who stopped Homer dead in his tracks. A powerful defending scrum from Bath then forced a penalty rounding off a great period of defence.
Abendanon showed clearly why he has been associated with an England EPS call up after he set up a fantastic try. A neat chip over the flat Bath defence looked dangerous, however, the efforts of Abendanon turned the Irish attack on its head. Abendanon covered well behind the Bath defence and caught the ball at pace, taking it wide and outpacing the defending wing, Homer. Blitzing down the touchline with winger Tom Biggs and scrum-half Claassens in support, Abendanon drew his defender to release Biggs who in turn did the same, sending Claassens in to finish a full pitch effort. Donald converted the tricky kick out wide to add the extras. 20-3.
Bath looked to be truly in control when they had ball in hand with another spilt ball from Irish nearly giving Abendanon a chance to repeat his previous break. It was only the efforts of Steven Shingler and Armitage that prevented a quick succession of tries for Bath. However, Bath kept the pressure on and after further great forward interplay, Bath were awarded a penalty as the visitors crumbled under the intensity. Donald slotted an easy penalty. 23-3.
A notable substitution happened with exactly 14 minutes remaining, as rugby league convert, Kyle Eastmond made his anticipated debut to rugby union and Bath colours, Woodburn making way after a solid 65 minute performance.
Irish didn't help their cause in the closing 10 minutes, as Claassens was taken out late by Armitage, and referee Martin Fox demonstrated his disapproval, sending Armitage to the sin bin.
The Bath forwards had been by far the more dominant and were rewarded for a cohesive and powerful match performance after an attacking scrum on Irish's five metre line proved too much for the visitors with the referee signalling a penalty try. Donald added the extras. 30-3.
The remaining couple of minutes saw a late flurry from Irish who used the width of the pitch well, but dedicated defence from the home side prevented anything developing and kept the try line from being breached.