Bath Rugby recovered from a first-half slump to score five second-half tries against a shell-shocked London Irish, winning 43-18 in front of a sold-out Rec.
Bath signalled their attacking intent from the off when they chose to run the ball from inside their 22 in the opening minute rather than to kick. They were at it again in the third minute, running impressive decoy lines, when London Irish were penalised at the ruck. George Ford's well-struck penalty gave Bath an early three-point lead.
Ford doubled his team's lead four minutes later after Irish had collapsed the scrum. His opposite number, Chris Noakes, then added three points of his own after a scrum infringement in front of the Bath posts. 6-3.
The tit-for-tat continued when, in the 21st minute, Ford struck a fine long penalty from within the Exiles' 10m to nudge Bath ahead 9-3.
The home side might have been disappointed not to have scored after a few phases of attack in the final quarter of the first half, but they wouldn't have been too unhappy with an extra three points won by their scrum and kicked by Ford with just over ten minutes remaining. 12-3.
The kick from Ford was cancelled out near the half-hour mark by Noakes, who slotted a fine penalty a metre or so inside Bath's halfway line. 12-6.
As the seconds ticked down to half time, Irish blindside Luke Narraway burst up the right wing and put his men into a formidable position from which loosehead Tom Court was able to touch down. Noakes converted the Ulsterman's try to take the Exiles into half time with a one-point lead.
Half time: Bath Rugby 12-13 London Irish
Shortly into the second half and the crowd were growing restless after several re-set Bath scrums on Irish's 5m line. The groans turned into cheers, though, as number eight Leroy Houston piled over for Bath's first try of the night, which Ford made light work of converting. 19-13.
That was followed up only minutes later by a razzle-dazzle moment of magic by Jonathan Joseph, the outside centre chipping and gathering the ball beyond the Irish defence to score Bath's second. Ford converted that one too. 26-13.
Bath were now on a roll, and when they found themselves inside Irish's 22, wasted little time in spinning the ball wide through Eastmond to Matt Banahan on the wing - the Jersey man scoring his second try in as many games. Ford was off target with his conversion attempt this time. 31-13.
The try bonus point for Bath was sealed when Sam Burgess benefited from an unstoppable driving maul for the fourth home try of the match, which Ford nudged through the posts for an impressive 38-13 lead.
Semesa Rokoduguni made it onto the scoresheet with fewer than ten minutes remaining thanks to a scoring pass from the influential and tireless Leroy Houston. Ford was unable to make the conversion from the touchline. 43-13.
The Exiles scored a consolation try in the final minute of the match through openside Blair Cowan, but it was never going to be enough to recover from Bath's totally dominant second-half display.
Full time: Bath Rugby 43-18 London Irish
24 April 2015
Referee: Luke Pearce
Half Time score: 12-13
- Tries: Houston (45), Joseph (49), Banahan (54), Burgess (60), Rokoduguni (71)
- Conversions: Ford (46, 50, 61)
- Penalties: Ford (3, 7, 17, 27)
- Tries: Court (40), Cowan (78)
- Conversions: Noakes (41)
- Penalties: Noakes (15, 29)