A brace from Matt Banahan and a try a-piece for Semesa Rokoduguni and Leroy Houston secured a 25-17 bonus point win for Bath Rugby over London Irish.
Rhys Priestland and Theo Brophy Clews exchanged penalties in the first 10 minutes to keep honours even on the scoreboard, before Matt Banahan breached the tryline for the first time.
A scintillating break from Kyle Eastmond gave Bath a man overlap as London Irish struggled to get back into the defensive line. Leroy Houston was on hand to take the centre’s offload, finding Banahan outside him, who crossed unopposed in the corner. 8-3.
Brophy Clews brought the visitors back to within two points with another penalty, before Banahan got his second with 24 minutes gone. Replacement Stuart Hooper secured the line-up and a powerful driving maul marched towards the line. It came to a halt, but the ball was quickly recycled into the hands of Priestland, who in turn offloaded to the marauding Banahan out wide. The winger powered over, despite the attentions of Irish’s Blair Cowan. Priestland added the extras, 15-6.
A penalty from Brophy Clews, but earnt by the pack, meant the visitors stayed within touching distance up until the final minutes of the first half.
A searing break through the midfield by Priestland took Bath right into the 22. Banahan was on hand to continue the attack and he had Tom Homer and Semesa Rokoduguni in support. Homer looked as if he may score himself, but he got the ball away in time before he was taken into touch, and the athletic Rokoduguni managed to ground the ball in the corner.
Half-time score: Bath Rugby 20 – London Irish 9.
The visitors enjoyed some early possession after the break and they seemed determined to close the gap, but the home defence held firm.
On the 62 minute, the try bonus point was secured as Leroy Houston dived over in the corner unopposed. Banahan’s powerful initial break carved a hole in the defence, and after some patient phase play in the 22, Eastmond provided the final pass to the back-rower to get the try.
With the game all but won, it became a little unstructured – both sides looked to attack, but neither made much headway.
Irish nearly secured a losing bonus point in the final minute. First Greig Tonks slotted a penalty, then Alex Lewington scored in the corner, but Tonks’s conversion attempt from the touchline bounced back off the post.
Final score: Bath Rugby 25 – London Irish 17.