Bath Rugby continued their impressive form of recent weeks with another emphatic bonus point victory at the Recreation Ground, beating London Irish 40-16.
A sixth win on the spin for Bath, the home side looked in control for the majority of the match, with tries coming from Nick Abendanon, Nathan Catt, Anthony Perenise and a penalty try, and the extras from the boots of Stephen Donald and Tom Heathcote.
Bath dominated the match from the off, with the forwards in particular proving to have the upper hand. However, with Donald missing an early penalty chance, it was in fact London Irish who first troubled the scoreboard, fullback Tom Homer sending two consecutive penalties through the posts.
Donald made up for his earlier miss with Bath's first points five minutes later after Topsy Ojo was penalised for a high tackle on Tom Biggs, and the home side then started patiently building pressure. 3-6.
It paid off on the half-hour mark. A flowing move across the field resulted in Biggs having a simple run-in to the tryline. However, a second high tackle on the winger from Ojo saw referee David Rose head towards the posts, award the penalty try, and send Ojo to the sin-bin. Heathcote, on for Donald, sent the conversion cleanly through the posts, and Bath had the lead for the first time in the game. 10-6.
It was a lead they extended just five minutes later. A driving line-out, which was a solid platform that Bath worked from all game, saw the ball sent quickly out to Heathcote in midfield. The fly-half located Abendanon with a beautifully arched pass and the fullback looped his run around the Irish defence to cross the whitewash. Heathcote, with a little help from the inside of the post, added the extra two points.
Another penalty from Homer kept Irish within touching distance as the half-time whistle blew, but Bath seemed very much in control after the first 40 minutes.
Half-time score – Bath Rugby 17 – London Irish 9.
Another three points from Heathcote saw Bath edging away at the start of the second-half, and he added to it ten minutes later when Homer was the second Irish player to see yellow after failing to release Kyle Eastmond following a surging break from the centre. 23-9.
Bath were determined to take advantage of the extra man, but it wasn't to be. A number of driving mauls at the line were held out by the Irish defence, and when it looked as if Bath had finally got over the line, Rose called a knock-on and Irish cleared the danger.
The visitors were fighting hard to get back into the game, and on 64 minutes it looked as if they may have found their way in, with replacement Jack Moates finishing off a flowing move from deep inside their own half to slide over in the corner. Fly-half Ian Humphreys added the extras, and for all Bath's dominance it was back to being a seven point game. 23-16.
The home side rallied though and kept their heads under the pressure. Heathcote provided some breathing room with another good penalty with five minutes remaining following another yellow card to Irish – this time to Jon Fisher who carried the can for repeated infringements from the visitors.
With four minutes to go, Bath were throwing everything they could at the line, and it quickly paid off with two more tries.
Catt went over first, with another strong line-out seeing the ball come down quickly and finding the replacement prop 5m out. He barrelled his way through the on-coming defence to touchdown. Heathcote was again successful with the conversion from out wide, although again he needed a little help from the woodwork.
Bath kept up the pressure, searching for that all-important bonus point try. Another penalty from Irish saw the home side again opt to kick to the corner. The line-out was good, the driving maul powered towards the line and Perenise burrowed his way over at the front of it. Heathcote continued his successful afternoon with the boot with another sound conversion, sealing the win.
Final-score – Bath Rugby 40 – London Irish 16.