3 years ago
11 August 2010, 10:54am
Steve Meehan praised Bath Rugby players' attitude and commitment after Nick Abendanon's dramatic late try gave them victory over London Irish at the Recreation Ground.
Bath Rugby led for the majority of the match - and looked the more likely victors throughout - until Irish winger Jonathan Joseph's 72nd-minute try was converted by Ryan Lamb.
That gave 14-man Irish - who had George Stowers red-carded for a high tackle on Abendanon in the 62nd minute - a 13-12 lead with time running out.
But Abendanon pounced on Michael Claassens' clever chip beyond the visiting defence to score a wonderful try of his own with five minutes remaining, before Olly Barkley later sealed the victory with the last kick of the match.
Head coach Meehan, whose team have already won more league matches this season than they did before Christmas last term, praised the determination of his hard-working players.
He said: "Although we were a point down with seven minutes left, I never thought that we'd lose that game. I felt comfortable the entire game - particularly in the second half when I thought we were more direct and worked a lot better as a team.
"It was a bit tight - but I suppose it was always going to be against one of the better teams. I thought our attitude and commitment were brilliant - we really had to work hard to win that game. The performance wasn't perhaps at the level we want it to be but the attitude was fantastic."
Meehan was particularly impressed by how his players responded to losing starting trio Matt Banahan, Lee Mears and Simon Taylor before half-time, with the replacements maintaining the standards set by those who started the game. There was further disruption for Bath when David Flatman came off shortly after the restart and had to be replaced by the impressive Nathan Catt.
"I think the performance from the team, having lost those three players, was spot-on," added the head coach. "The guys went in there and did their jobs very, very well - you didn't see a significant difference or drop-off. We continued to play in the same manner, so I'm delighted with the way those early replacements went about their business."
Bath fell behind in the third minute after being penalised at a ruck, with Lamb knocking over the 45-metre penalty to give Irish the lead.
The visitors' advantage lasted only three minutes, though, with Barkley soon drawing Bath level when Irish failed to roll away from a tackle.
The first half was cagier than the free-flowing attacking reputations of both sides suggested it might have been, with the teams only managing to fashion a few half-chances between them as defences ruled.
After they had lost Banahan and Mears, Barkley slotted Bath into a 6-3 lead on 29 minutes to settle the team down, and the inside centre increased his team's lead to 9-3 on 38 minutes when the under-pressure Irish defence strayed offside.
Fly-half Lamb cut the Bath lead back to three points at the break after punishing an offside in the Bath defence following Daniel Bowden's break.
The second half was a more open contest after the tight opening period , but the 11,005 spectators inside the Rec still had to wait until the 14th minute of the half to see any further points.
Those were supplied by Barkley, who made it 12-6 after Irish were again penalised for going offside at the tackle, and at that stage the home side looked on course for victory.
Their victory bid had been aided when Elvis Seveali'i - who wrote his name into Bath's folklore by scoring a late winning try against Irish in 2003 - was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle on Sam Vesty two minutes before Barkley struck.
And, although Seveali'i returned with 18 minutes to play, Irish had to play with 14 men for the remainder of the game after Stowers saw red for a high tackle on Abendanon, which dazed the flying full-back. Abendanon later acknowledged the Irish No 8 had been unfortunate to see red for what he deemed an unintentionally high tackle.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Irish were next to score, with Joseph taking Lamb's long pass and going over out wide on his first Aviva Premiership start after a lengthy spell of pressure on the Bath line. Lamb converted from close to the touchline to give Irish the lead for the first time since the opening minutes.
But Bath stayed positive - and when Irish dropped the ball from the restart, the home side had a scrum 30 metres out. Claassens' quick thinking saw him race round the back of the scrum, before delivering a delicate chip down the line for Abendanon to chase. The full-back gathered the ball with ease and dived over to restore Bath's lead.
Barkley missed the tricky conversion attempt, but sent the ball through the middle of the posts from a 45-metre penalty to seal a seven-point victory for his team with the last kick of the match.
Today's Match Day Sponsors were James Hull Associates
By Helen Bayes
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