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Irish leave with the spoils

Like Bath last week against Connacht, London Irish snuck home in the closing minutes of the match, taking the spoils from this Guinness Premiership encounter at the Rec 21-17.

The home team left the field especially disappointed, as it was generally a much-improved performance compared with recent games. Indeed, Steve Meehan said afterwards: "The guys are absolutely shattered. They put their hearts and souls into it and I thought they were everything we have been criticised for not being."

Bath were 17-6 ahead just after half-time, having taken the lead as early as the third minute, when a confident strike from Chris Malone from inside his own half punished Irish indiscipline at the scrum. Barry Everitt missed a chance to equalise a few minutes later, but his side showed glimpses of the danger they posed in the backs through the likes of wings Dominic Shabbo and Sailosi Tagicakibau, and Seilala Mapusua in the centre.

Everitt converted his second attempt, an easier shot in front of goal. The game blew up midway through the first half, when Zak Feaunati was upended in the tackle by David Paice, sparking a reaction from both sets of players that resulted in the sin-binning of Paice for the tackle, and Neal Hatley and Peter Short for fighting.

Bath could not immediately capitalise on their man advantage. Malone put the ball into touch for a lineout, but the resulting maul was pulled down, and a second penalty awarded. But although James Scaysbrook took the ball, it was subsequently lost forward. Irish regained possession, but were then penalised for crossing and Malone made good the three points from in front of the posts.

The team was attacking with confidence, and a strong run by Eliota Fuiamaono-Sapolu, continued by Rob Hawkins, gave Malone another chance, when Irish failed to roll away in the tackle, and the fly-half stretched the lead to 9-3.

The visitors generally had the better of territory in the first half, and made it count in injury time, pressing the Bath line and winning another penalty, through which Everitt closed the gap. But shortly after the restart, Bath regained the ball, Nick Walshe broke through, and gave Feaunati a clear run to the line.

Five minutes into the second half, Malone extended the lead after a superb break down the left wing by Shaun Berne, and although Bath were soon on the back foot again, a penalty to London Irish awarded within dangerous distance of Bath's tryline was reversed after the intervention of the touch judge, as a result of which replacement bob Casey was shown the yellow card, and the home team cleared to touch.

However, the relief was temporary and soon David Barnes too was given ten minutes on the sidelines, for killing the ball as Bath scrambled back in defence. Having missed an earlier attempt, Everitt secured three more points.

The penalty count mounted in the visitors' favour, and though one catch-and-drive move was turned over by excellent defence, Robbie Russell eventually crashed over, and just a point separated the sides after Everitt's successful conversion.

The number of stoppages there had been meant there was plenty of time left to play, and Everitt set up the next try with a kick that put the Irish deep into the Bath half once more. The throw-in fell to Bath, but the ball went astray and as Irish accepted it gratefully. Juan Leguizamon, who with Casey had made a great impression since taking the field, scored the try that put his side ahead.

Still time remained, but for all their efforts, Bath could not pull off the requisite score. Meehan was rueful afterwards: "Perhaps had a couple of decisions done our way in the second half, it could have been a different result."

Refusing to cast judgement on the tackle that caused the first-half dust-up, he said: "What I'm concerned about is getting back in the changing room and making the guys feel as good about themselves as they can after that performance."

Scorers:
4: Penalty Malone, 3-0
15: Pen Everitt, 3-3
25: Pen Malone, 6-3
38: Pen Malone, 9-3
40+4: Pen Everitt, 9-6
40+5: Try Feaunati, 14-6
(Half-time)
46: Pen Malone, 17-6
63: Pen Everitt, 17-9
71: Try Russell, Conversion Everitt, 17-16
80+1: Try Leguizamon, 17-21

BATH: 15. N Abendanon (Cheeseman, 59) 14. M Stephenson 13. S Berne 12. E Fuimaono-Sapolu 11. D Bory (Maddock, 54) 10. C Malone 9. N Walshe 1. D Barnes (sin-bin: 61-74) 2. R Hawkins (Ward, 80+3) 3. D Flatman 4. P Short (sin-bin: 20-34) 5. R Fidler (Faamatuainu, 36) 6. A Beattie (captain) 7. J Scaysbrook (Goodman, 74) 8. I Feaunati (Ovens, 64-74).

Replacements: 16. D Ward 17. L Ovens 18. C Goodman 19. J Faamatuainu 20. A Williams
21. T Cheeseman 22. J Maddock

LONDON IRISH: 15. D Armitage 14. D Shabbo (Skuse, 24-34) 13. S Mapusua 12. R Flutey 11. S Tagicakibau 10. B Everitt 9. P Hodgson (Rees, 80+6)1. N Hatley (captain; sin-bin: 20-34; Lea'aetoa, 79) 2. D Paice (sin-bin: 20-34; Russell, 56) 3. T Lea'aetoa (Skuse, 63) 4. K Roche 5. J Hudson (Casey, 48; sin-bin: 54-66) 6. A McCullen (Russell, 24-34) 7.O Magne (Danaher, 48) 8. P Murphy (Leguizamon, 66).

Replacements: 16. R Skuse 17. R Russell 18. B Casey 19. J Leguizamon 20. D Danaher 21. R Rees 22. G Tiesi

Referee: R Maybank
Attendance: 10,600

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