Following Steve Meehan's call for Bath Rugby to "deliver each and every week," the team did just that against London Irish today. Producing a scintillating display, the West Country contingent catapulted from 10th place to seventh after running in four tries and demonstrating a high quality and resolute defensive performance.
From the outset, the mood in the Bath camp was buoyant and the confidence felt following the victory against Sale Sharks last weekend quickly resulted in a three-point lead at five minutes after Irish were penalised for killing the ball.
Five minutes later and the hosts equalised, as Bath, who had already conceded one penalty, went on to concede a second in under a minute. Tom Homer kicked from wide and Irish were neck and neck with their visitors.
Determined to break away from their opponents, Bath mounted sustained pressure and when Irish attempted to clear the ball in the form of Alfredo Lelanne he was met by Joe Maddock who was poised and ready to make a stunning catch before offloading to Ben Skirving. From the resulting ruck, David Barnes stole the ball and burst through the midfield, palming off Lelanne on his way. The prop ran 20 metres to score behind the posts for the first try of the match and Barnes's fifth try of his Bath career. After Ryan Davis converted, Bath went into a lead of 10-3 after 14 minutes.
Three minutes later and Homer and Davis exchanged penalties, but it was not long then before London Irish, pushing for the breakthrough, had a pass from ex-Bath player Chris Malone intercepted by the 'jersey juggernaut' Matt Banahan. The winger raced 60 metres to score for five points and with another successful conversion from Davis, Bath were battling ahead with a 20 to six point lead.
As the clock counted down and with just five minutes left of the first half, Bath captain Michael Claassens planted a strong kick into the corner forcing the home side to throw in for a line out just five metres from their own try line. Irish attempted to throw the ball to the back of their line, but Bath put paid to their efforts and snaffled the ball. After consistent pressure by the visitors, some brilliant handling from Duncan Bell, Luke Watson and Stuart Hooper ensured that the ball was carried to the right hand corner for Maddock to cross the white line. As the whistle blew for the end of the first half, Bath were leading 25-6 at the break.
Coming back from the interval, Irish returned to the pitch in more determined form than that which they started the match and were rewarded with three points after just two minutes after a Bath offside offence.
Fortune did not continue to look so favourably on the hosts, however, as a Gibson try was disallowed after a long deliberation by the television match official. But, the pressure from Irish continued and Homer booted the ball for a penalty after a Bath infringement.
Bath were next to receive the 'disallowed try' status, after good play by Bell, Nick Abendanon and substitute Pieter Dixon, aided Claassens to ground the ball under the posts. The try was not awarded though following an earlier Bath offence.
Inspired by the failure to seal another five points through Claassens, the visitors applied consistent pressure in a bid to secure the bonus point try and Irish began to crumble. At 66 minutes, Faan Rautenbach was sin binned for killing the ball and Davis booted another three points, as he slotted the ball between the posts for the third penalty of the game.
Bath finally got their fourth try at 68 minutes, after some good interplay between the forwards and backs sent Maddock down the right hand touch line, to beat the covering defence and score in the corner. Davis converted from a difficult angle, kicking Bath to a 35-15 lead.
Irish went in search of some consolation and found it, however meagre, in the form of their fullback Homer in the 79th minute. The 19 year old broke free on the halfway line and scored in the corner, converting his own try. Whilst the move narrowed the score divide by seven points it was not enough to claw back a victory and Bath Rugby remained victorious with a final score of 35-22.