25 September 2012, 8:23am
In stunning early autumn, those in the East stand basked in the warm sun as Bath took to the field seeking the third win of the season against a struggling Irish team who had conceded more than 40 points in each of their opening three matches.
Within 10 minutes, an Olly Barkley penalty put the boys in blue, black and white ahead, and the omens looked good as the forwards took control of the early exchanges in the center of the pitch. Despite the late withdrawal of Francois Louw, Bath went into the game with a settled pack and with only one significant change in the backs, being the return of Stephen Donald at 10 and Olly moving to 12
The first quarter of the match resulted in further indiscipline by the boys as three successive penalties were given away. Then Kyle Eastmond received the ball on his inside to fly across the line for a converted try which took the boys back in front of The Irish at 9-13. This was the moment that the home team woke up and took the game to Bath and, through sheer determination, the Irish backs rallied through the excellent Marland Yarde and, with their forwards also coming to life, it was left to Halani Aulika to power over the line just before half time to give London Irish a lead that they were not to relinquish
The boys came out in the second half to cheers from the excited away supporters, who made up a sizeable presence amongst the 7,324 crowd.
The backs appeared frustrated at the lack of ball reaching them, and Kyle Eastmond and Tom Biggs made great play of coming inside to seek good ball, which resulted in Kyle creating short direct runs through the Irish centre. Both teams relied on a kicking plan, which appeared better suited to or executed by the home team as Bath struggled to capitalise on Plan A.
The boys had their chances at the start of the fourth quarter and turned down opportunities of penalties in front of the post in order to seek that elusive second try after falling behind by 7 points. With Irish then down to 14, Bath piled on the pressure, which resulted in just a penalty with 10 minutes left to earn a bonus point.
London Irish were clearly elated at the final whistle as much as relieved at earning their first win of the season in front of their own fanatical fans. For Bath, it was another match of what might have been as the team walked off the pitch shattered at giving so much effort but all in vain
Next Saturday the boys return to the Rec for Olly's farewell game in front of his home crowd against a Sale team determined to get their first win of the new season. I hope the Centurions will be out in force as they were at London Irish, with so many minis turning up from Corsham Rugby Club to support the boys.