Bath paid the price for being slower to get out of the blocks than London Irish as they resumed their Guinness Premiership campaign at the Madejski Stadium, conceding 15 first-half points before scoring a 76th-minute try to make the final score 15-7.
Steve Meehan blamed the result on a lack of aggression in the opening period. "The first half is where the damage was done," the Head Coach said. "It wasn't as if we didn't have some opportunities but we couldn't convert any of them - we pushed some passes. But we were sitting back on our heels, not being aggressive, not being as positive as we could have been."
London Irish had taken an early lead in a score initially set up by young fly-half Shane Geraghty. His kick across field forced Nick Abendanon back into his 22, and he, with Sailosi Tagicakibau bearing down on him, offloaded to Joe Maddock, who cleared to touch. But Bob Casey took the lineout at the tail and the Irish, who had first stretched Bath's defence down the right wing, when Geraghty nearly released Delon Armitage, made the most of an overlap on the left, and Tagicakibau crossed to score.
Putting Bath under pressure again soon after, Nick Kennedy hacked on a loose ball and Bath were forced to touch it down over the line. Given a penalty after the scrum, Irish kicked to touch, but Bath were penalised again when the maul from the lineout collapsed. Another ensued, and this time Irish went through the backs, Geraghty again getting over the gainline before the other wing, Topsy Ojo, got through to score. This time, the fly-half added the conversion.
Soon after the restart Bath, having entered the home side's half for only the second time in the match, won a penalty. As it was just a metre over halfway, Olly Barkley opted to kick for touch, and when Zak Feaunati won the lineout, the forwards drove superbly to take Bath up to - but not quite over - the line. They won another penalty but the second attack was repelled and London Irish cleared the danger.
They soon extended their lead, having turned Bath over in their own half and used their quick backline to counter attack. Tagicakibau was well tackled but Abendanon was penalised at the ruck and sent to the sin-bin. Irish opted to kick for touch, but when Bath were penalised in front of their posts, Geraghty took the three points on offer.
With ten minutes of the half remaining, Bath nearly cut the deficit when Maddock on the right wing cut back inside, but his offload to Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu was deemed forward by the touch judge. From the scrum, Irish attacked down the blindside, this time through scrum-half Paul Hodson, but the retreating Bath defenders intercepted the pass to Tagicakibau and the ball bobbled into touch. Swinging the ball quickly to the right from the lineout, they nearly scored again, but Ojo fumbled the would-be scoring pass from Armitage.
Into injury time, Barkley took his first attempt at goal when Irish were penalised at the scrum, but his kick just shaved the left-hand post, and Bath remained scoreless at half-time.
As in the first period, Bath spent much of the early part of the second in their own half, but after fifteen minutes, a penetrating run by Abendanon and some slick passing in the backs showed signs of their offensive capabilities. And it was the full-back again who reignited Bath hopes with a searing break that took him over the Irish 22, after a scrum back in his own half.
The home side was stretched, and though Bath could not breach their line, a fight had broken out on the right-hand side of the field, and Irish were deeded the offenders. Barkley kicked for touch, the lineout was secured, and Danny Grewcock emerged from the bottom of the pile as after the forwards rumbled over the whitewash. Barkley struck an excellent conversion, and as there had been a number of stoppages during the game, over ten minutes remained.
The closing minutes made for exciting viewing, now that Bath too were playing with some sparkle and ambition, but their revival had come too late.
On a positive note, Meehan said: "We were very good in the set-piece - we won our ball. But we didn't give ourselves a chance strategically."
9: Try Tagicakibau, 5-0
16: Try Ojo, Conversion Geraghty, 12-0
29: Penalty Geraghty, 15-0
76: Try Grewcock, Con Barkley, 15-7
BATH: 15. N Abendanon (sin-bin: 26-37)14. M Stephenson 13. E Fuimaono-Sapolu 12. S Berne 11. J Maddock 10. O Barkley 9. N Walshe (Williams, 48) 1. D Barnes 2. L Mears 3. M Stevens 4. S Borthwick (captain) 5. D Grewcock 6. A Beattie (Short, 61) 7. G Delve (Scaysbrook, 80) 8. I Feaunati
Replacements: 16. P Dixon 17. A Jarvis 18. P Short 19. J Scaysbrook 20. A Williams 21. D Bory 22. C Malone
LONDON IRISH: 15. D Armitage (Horak, 75) 14. T Ojo 13. N Mordt 12. M Catt (captain) 11. S Tagicakibau 10. S Geraghty (Everitt, 80+2) 9. P Hodgson 1. T Lea'aetoa 2. D Coetzee (Russell, 24-32; 55) 3. F Rautenbach (Hatley, 41) 4. N Kennedy 5. B Casey (Hudson, 67) 6. K Roche 7. S Armitage 8. P Murphy (Leguizamon, 63)
Replacements: 16. N Hatley 17. R Russell 18. J Hudson 19. J Leguizamon 20. M Horak 21. B Willis 22. B Everitt
Referee: W Barnes