A five-try, bonus point performance saw Bath Rugby return to winning ways this afternoon, in a frantic encounter with London Irish.
Bath’s intent was clear from the start, when two early penalty chances were sent to the corner by Man of the Match George Ford.
Eager to capitalise on their momentum, Bath tapped and went, and Jonathan Joseph danced his way through the defence, stretching out to score with the ball in one hand. With Ford’s conversion attempt successful, it was 7-0 after five minutes.
A penalty for the Exiles in Bath’s 22 on 10 minutes was swiftly converted by fly-half Shane Geraghty, making it 7-3. He nearly made it two from two moments later when Bath were pinged at the lineout, but his attempt curled to the left of the post.
With 20 minutes gone, Ford’s chip and chase to the corner pressured Topsy Ojo into taking the ball into touch. The quick-thinking fly-half instantly launched a lineout pass to openside Guy Mercer 5m out from the tryline, the flanker scoring to make it 12-3. Ford converted taking the score to 14-3.
Ford received a high ball from Exiles wing Topsy Ojo on his own 10 metre line and set off on a jinking run. Feigning to run right, he stepped back inside and went on an exhilarating run which ended under the posts for Bath’s third try. A contender for one of the tries of the Aviva Premiership thus far, Ford converted his own try. 21-3 to Bath.
Minutes later, a neat one-two at the lineout from Rob Webber and Dominic Day sent the home side on a driving maul from Exiles’ 5m line. The hooker peeled away from the maul to score – but the first-half was far from over.
The Exiles, perhaps realising they needed a try before half-time, chose to tap their penalty deep in Bath territory. The gamble paid off as Geraghty scored in the right-hand corner, converting his own try to make it 26-10 to Bath.
Bath were quick to bounce back, though, Mercer side-stepping his way to his second try two minutes before time, after a swift pop inside from Ford to Semesa Rokoduguni enabled the wing to make great strides into the Exiles’ 22 . The conversion an accurate one.
Half-Time: Bath Rugby 33-10 London Irish
London Irish came out fighting in the second-half, and the first points were theirs after Bath were pinged inside their 22, Geraghty making it 33-13.
Some incredibly entertaining rugby from Bath gave the crowd reason the cheer with 50 minutes gone, before replacement fullback Ollie Devoto made good his grubber kick to put pressure on Exiles in their own half. From there, Bath won a penalty and, despite the bonus point already being in the bag, opted for a scrum.
The dominant Bath scrum saw the away pack penalised three times, before the fourth call went Exiles’ way. Scrappy passages of play followed, with knock-ons disrupting both sides’ ambitions, before the hard-working Bath pack won a scrum against the head just when it counted.
Replacement second row and Club captain Stuart Hooper stole the ball at the lineout, only for his side to be penalised for being offside. The Exiles were only in Bath’s 22 for a matter of seconds before the men in Blue, Black and White stole the ball again, Mercer pinching it to the relief of the home crowd.
With eight minutes to go, Geraghty kicked for touch on a penalty. The Exiles forwards recycled the ball to their backs, and when wing Alex Lewington chipped past the Bath defence, it was Geraghty who was on the receiving end, dotting down over the tryline. 33-18.
Though Bath were scoreless in a frustrating second half, they were nonetheless enterprising, choosing to keep running the ball instead of kicking to touch for the referee to blow up for full time. Ultimately though, with time up on the clock, it was left to Ford to finish the game by sending the touch for the final time.
Final Score - Bath Rugby 33-18 London Irish