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Bath gift Irish victory in thriller at the Rec

Irish's 33-28 victory consisted of five tries, but Bath only had themselves to blame after affording the visitors a sizeable 26-6 half time lead through a series of unforced errors despite playing all the rugby. Brian Ashton's side did stage a comeback in a thrilling second half, but were left with too much to do.
"We did not deserve to win the game," said Ashton. "We made one or two silly errors which gifted them points. At half time we talked about eradicating the errors, and we did that to a large extent in the second half."

These days Bath are playing a much more loose and fluid game. They are also scoring tries. However, this new approach under Ashton will take time to settle in, and the result is perhaps a reminder of the task that the former England and Ireland coach has ahead of him if this once great club is to return to the top of the domestic and European game.

Irish set the tone early in the match when Argentine international Juan Manuel Leguizamon scored an early try to lift the visitor's spirits. Bath hit back playing the sort of attacking rugby that had taken them to victory against Wasps and Saracens, but could manage only two Chris Malone penalties in a first half that would best be forgotten.

Irish, for the record were playing off scraps, as Bath dominated possession, but significantly the Exiles made the most of any opportunity presented to them. Quick thinking from a lineout and poor Bath defence allowed Topsy Ojo, the pacey young winger, to dance his way through to the line for a superb individual score which Riki Flutey converted for a healthy 12-3 lead.

Then Bath were dealt a massive blow. Eliota Fuimaono, the Samoan international centre, has been a revelation since joining Bath. However, after making a typically powerful break the centre was felled and had to be helped off the field with what looked like a very nasty knee injury.

Two tries in first half injury time compounded the home side's misery as first Delon Armitage and then Ojo capitalised on Bath's errors from a turnover and an interception respectively. The two quickes players on the pitch did not need to be asked twice to find their way through to the try line.

The Bath players must have been scratching their heads at the interval as to how they managed to find themselves 26-6 in arrears despite playing all the rugby. However, the second half was to be an altogether different affair.

Within two minutes Bath had scored two tries and within sixteen minutes had added a penalty to put the pressure on the Exiles. Both tries were from the top draw and both were from lineouts. Gareth Delve, fresh from winning his first cap, peeled away from a clever lineout to burst over the line and then Mears powered his way over the line from five metres out, rolled onto his back and placed the ball down over his head for a fine try.

Malone's penalty shortly after made it game on, but despite being in the ascendancy, Bath were once again victims of their own mistakes. Frikkie Welsh did come close to the line and Michael Stephenson had a try ruled out for a forward pass, but turnovers began to creep back into the game.

The Exiles tacked everything in sight and then waited patiently for their chance. Replacement eight Phil Murphy drove at the heart of the Bath defence setting up Sailosi Tagicakibau for a try that was to prove the match winner.

Bath did rally one last time, and Alex Crockett burst over after a series of powerful drives near the line, but with time running out the home side could not find the all important winning score and had to settle for a bonus point on what was a disappointing, but thrilling afternoon.

Time Line

6 Leguizamon try 5-0
20 Malone pen 3-5
27 Ojo try, Flutey con 3-12
33 Malone pen 6-12
38 Armitage try, Flutey con 6-19
40 Ojo try, Flutey con 6-26
41 Delve try, Malone con 13-26
46 Mears try 18-26
55 Malone pen 21-26
71 Tagicakibau try, Flutey con 21-33
77 Crockett try, Malone con 28-33

Reps: Maddock for Fuimaono (34 mins), Williams for Welsh (66 mins), Short for Grewcock and Filise for Stevens (71 mins)

Bath Rugby: 15 Michael Stephenson, 14 Frikkie Welsh, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Eliota Fuimaono, 11 David Bory. 10 Chris Malone, 9 Nick Walshe, 1 Matt Stevens, 2 Lee Mears, 3 Duncan Bell, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 5 Danny Grewcock, 6 Andy Beattie, 7 Michael Lipman, 8 Gareth Delve

16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Taufa'ao Filise, 18 Peter Short, 19 James Hudson, 20 Andy Williams, 21 Andy Dunne, 22 Joe Madock

London Irish:15. Delon Armitage; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Nils Mordt; 12. Mike Catt* (captain); 11. Sailosi Tagicakibau*; 10. Riki Flutey; 9. Paul Hodgson; 1. Neal Hatley; 2. Danie Coetzee*; 3. Faan Rautenbach*; 4. Bob Casey*; 5. Nick Kennedy; 6. Kieran Roche; 7. Olivier Magne*; 8. Juan Manuel Leguizamon*.

16. Michael Collins; 17. David Paice; 18. Paul Gustard; 19. Kieron Dawson*; 20. Phil Murphy*; 21. Ben Willis; 22. Michael Horak*.

Ref: Sean Davey

Attendance: 10,600

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