A hat-trick from Matt Banahan helped Bath Rugby secure Champions Cup rugby next season with an emphatic 63-19 victory over London Irish at the Rec.
Bath scored their first try of the afternoon after just three minutes through Taulupe Faletau in front of a capacity crowd. Banahan moved through the gears down the right wing before offloading the ball to Cooper Vuna, who carried the ball into the London Irish 22. The winger then found Faletau with the clever offload, and the Welsh international did the rest. Rhys Priestland made it a seven-point score with the conversion. 7-0
Bath added a second try seven minutes later, and it was Players' Player of the Year Aled Brew who started the move. The Welshman powered his way into the 22, before the ball was recycled out wide. Vuna picked up the ball from the back of a ruck just a few metres out and exploited the open space to score his second try in as many games. 14-0.
Captain Matt Garvey was shown a yellow card on for an infringement at the breakdown shortly after, but that didn’t stop Bath from scoring another try with 22 minutes played. The Blue, Black and White used quick ball from the scrum, and Kahn Fotuali’i found Banahan with the crash ball, and the departing centre powered his way over the whitewash. 21-0.
The bonus-point try was secured with ten minutes to go in the first half. Bath went through multiple phases in the Irish half, with the ball eventually finding its way to James Wilson, who continued his impressive run of form with a try of his own. 28-0.
The home side added a fifth score on the stroke of half-time. Tom Dunn showed his ball carrying skills with a clean break through the Irish defence, which gave Bath the attacking platform in the 22. The ball was quickly fed out to Elliott Stooke, who stepped inside Josh McNally, to give Bath a commanding 35-point lead at the interval.
Half-time - Bath Rugby 35-0 London Irish
The tries kept on coming, and it took Bath just 12 minutes to extend their lead in the second half. Bath used the catch and drive to devastating effect, and Banahan finished the move for his second of the match. Replacement Freddie Burns continued Bath's 100% record with the boot from the conversion. 42-0.
The floodgates continued to open, with a seventh try coming five minutes later. Burns chased his own chip over the top and gathered under pressure before finding Wilson with the offload. The centre dummied outside to Vuna and ran in unopposed from 40 metres out. 49-0.
London Irish kept plugging away, and were rewarded for their efforts with their opening points of the afternoon under the scorching sun at the Rec. Irish took advantage of a rare surge into the Bath 22 and worked the ball across to the blindside, with McNally finishing the move from close range. 49-5.
Banahan completed his hat-trick with just over 15 minutes to play. It was the trusted catch and drive, which paid dividends with the supporter favourite scoring in the corner to send the Rec into raptures. 56-5.
Replacement Will Vaughan extended Bath’s lead with the game going into the last 10 minutes with his first try for the Club. Wilson, Max Clark and Banahan all ate up considerable ground, with Academy prop Vaughan adding the finishing touch from close range. 63-5
London Irish added another consolation try, with a well-worked move. Greig Tonks spotted space behind the Bath defence with a chip over the top. The fullback gathered his own kick and produced a sublime offload to give Ben Loader, the easy task of crossing the whitewash. 63-12
Banahan came within a whisker of a fairytale ending, but was denied his 100th try for the Club for the double movement in the closing minutes.
London Irish ended their season with a third try of the afternoon in the last play of the game. A chip and chase was fielded by Piet Van Zyl, who in turn found McNally to score his second of the game. It was a fitting end, as David Paice marked his retirement with the conversion.
Full-time - Bath Rugby 63-19 London Irish