Bath Rugby secured a 12-13 win over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium this afternoon, with Sam Vesty and Dave Attwood scoring the tries, and Vesty the vital winning penalty.
The first half saw a bit of a see-saw start to the game, with each team seemingly taking turns to enjoy large periods of pressure and territory, before switching over. Bath made the brighter of the starts, attacking solidly for the majority of the first 20 minutes. However, the Irish defence held firm, even when the forwards were camped on the try line, picking and going, just inches from being over.
Then it was Irish's turn to attack, and although they had a couple of chances, the Bath defence stood strong, cutting down the onslaught with big hit after big hit.
A missed penalty from Vesty was the only real chance for either side in the opening quarter, and it wasn't until just over 30 minutes into the game that there was some real spark.
A loose lineout from Irish was snaffled up by flanker Guy Mercer, who released the ball, allowing it to be steadily worked through the phases before it was released out on to the wing, and into the hands of the flying Tom Biggs. His run was cut short however, as Delon Armitage tackled the winger from behind, his arm swinging around Biggs' neck. Whilst Biggs was able to get up and carry on, the high tackle earned Armitage a yellow card. Vesty sent the resulting penalty into the corner, and Bath secured the lineout. A driving maul formed, with the forwards powering to within five metres of the try line. The ball was spun out wide, eventually finding Vesty, who darted through the gap in the Irish defence, to cross the line and give Bath the lead until the half-time whilst blew. Half time score 0-5.
Irish came bursting out of the blocks at the start of the second half, with Tom Homer scoring two quick penalties, and giving the hosts the lead. 6-5.
It wasn't long before Bath were once more on the front foot though, controlling the play of the game, although unable to break down the Irish defence.
A break from ex-Bath centre Shontayne Hape nearly proved fruitful for the home side, but a vital turnover from Mercer secured possession once more for the visitors, and another wave of Bath attack came at Irish. Michael Claassens chipped through, allowing more Bath numbers to get up to the five metre line with him, and the ball was shipped out wide to Man of the Match Dave Attwood, who pulled off quite some acrobatics to keep himself in play as he touched down the ball. Referee David Rose wasn't sure if the score was good, so he referred it to the TMO, who, after a lengthy wait, awarded the try. Vesty couldn't quite find the angle for the touchline conversion. 6-10.
With just over 10 minutes left of the game, Bath were penalised at the scrum, and Homer stepped up to take another penalty from an almost identical position to the first two. Once more, he sent the ball sailing through the posts, clawing back a vital three points for the home side. 9-10.
Irish were next to score just five minutes later, as Vesty was penalised for being offside, and Homer stepped up to slot the penalty again, giving the home side the lead going into the final few minutes of the game. 12-10.
As the dying moments of the game ticked away, Bath attacked once more, and Hape was pinged for hands in at the ruck, almost dead in front of the posts. Vesty stepped up and coolly slotted the goal, edging Bath in front 12-13. It proved to be the deciding act of the game, as Irish spilt the ball in their final attack, and Vesty sent it sailing into the stands.
Final Score 12-13.