Six tries for Bath Rugby at the Madejski Stadium saw them power to a 14-45 bonus point win over London Irish this afternoon.
An action-packed first-half began with Kyle Eastmond scything his way through the London Irish defence. The move was halted illegally, providing Rhys Priestland with the opportunity to start the scoreboard ticking over with an early three points. Shane Geraghty was given the chance to draw the home side level, but his kick drifted wide. 0-3.
The visiting pack established an early dominance as a scrum followed by a lineout, both five metres out, saw Leroy Houston bundled over from short range to score the first try of the game. Priestland, with a little help from the inside of the upright, added the two extra points, giving Bath a 10 point lead.
A yellow card for Alafoti Faosiliva after a high tackle on Irish centre Tom Fowlie in the 18th minute kick-started an incident filled period of the game, that also provided a huge turning point. It looked as if Bath would be down to 13-men when referee Thomas Foley charged Matt Garvey with bringing down the Irish maul illegally from five metres out. Garvey was shown a yellow card, and Foley awarded the home side a penalty try. However, Foley’s attention was drawn to an incident in the build-up, and footage from the Television Match Official showed Brendan McKibbin making contact with the head of Henry Thomas from the back of the maul. McKibbin was sent off for the remainder of the game, and the try and Garvey’s yellow card were both rescinded.
Priestland had dispatched the resulting penalty to touch and from the lineout Ollie Devoto blasted through a gap to cross the whitewash. Priestland was again on target with the conversion, and Bath were 17 points to the good after 22 minutes.
Irish’s decision to sacrifice a wing for the specialised skill-set of a scrum-half seemed to pay off on the 27th minutes as replacement Scott Steele found his way over the line. Geraghty added the two. 7-17.
Neither side made much headway in the final minutes of the half, although the game was once more reduced to 14 v 14 after Devoto was shown a yellow card after a late barge on opposing fly-half, Geraghty.
Half-time: London Irish 7 – Bath Rugby 17.
Two quick-fire tries from Bath meant the second half started with a bang.
Chris Cook raced along the left touchline from a quickly taken lineout to set-up Faosiliva to cross from five metres out, before Rokoduguni made similar yards on the right wing. The winger had Eastmond on his shoulder in support, setting up an easy touch down for the centre to secure the bonus point. Fullback Tom Homer converted both tries, kicking well on his old ground. 7-31.
Despite being a man down, the home side attacked valiantly, and after a number of phases centre Fergus Mulchrone was driven over from close range. 14-31.
With the Bath lineout continuing to supply good clean ball Priestland was the next to score, after he picked a beautiful running line to exploit a gap in defence and glide through to the line. Replacement George Ford added the conversion.
Playing from deep, Rokoduguni was once again on hand to set-up the final try of the game, this time for his fellow Fijian, replacement Niko Matawalu. Rokoduguni charged from his own line and chipped ahead. The Irish defender, Aseli Tikoirotuma, slipped trying to gather the ball, and it sat up neatly for Matawalu to pounce on and score. Ford’s conversion came with the final kick of the game, rounding off a comfortable victory for Bath.
Final score: London Irish 14 – Bath Rugby 45.