Bath swat aside London Irish
September 28, 2013
Matt Banahan charges forward against London Irish
© Getty Images
Bath ran in five tries in the first-half to beat London Irish 33-18 at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.
Irish battled back gamely in the second 40 but never recovered from conceding an early try to Jonathan Joseph, the England centre who left them for Bath during the summer. Flanker Guy Mercer added two more and Rob Webber another but the man of the match was fly-half George Ford, who fittingly scored the try of the match from his own half and also added four conversions.
Bath had forced three penalties in as many minutes before Joseph stretched through Shane Geraghty's tackle to touch down. Once confirmed by the TV match official, the try was converted from wide out by Ford.
Unfortunately for the home side, that was match over after just five minutes for skipper Dave Attwood who was replaced by club captain Stuart Hooper. Irish brought their big runners into play in response and Bath were forced to concede a penalty kicked by fly-half Geraghty, who then missed another soon afterwards.
Full-back Anthony Watson, another recruit from the Irish during the summer, limped off to join Attwood on the touchline after 15 minutes but Bath made light of the disruption as Mercer crossed for his first try. Ford chased a clever kick by peter Stringer and, when Topsy Ojo could only usher the ball into touch, Ford just as smartly took a quick line-out to put his flanker over unopposed and then added the conversion.
The 20-year-old playmaker then showed yet another side to his game as he broke brilliantly from 60 metres, evading Tom O'Leary and just managing to ground the ball despite Marland Yarde's last-ditch tackle. The conversion was his too and Bath were 21-3 ahead with just 27 minutes played. A couple of minutes later, Ford's inch-perfect penalty kick to the corner allowed Webber to score from a conventional catch-and-drive.
For once, Ford's conversion was mis-hit and then allowed Geraghty to drive over and through him in the opposite corner to claim the Exiles' first try, expertly converted by the fly-half. But Bath claimed a four-try bonus point after the visitors' defence went AWOL on the right and Mercer scored again, with Ford converting.
As if a 33-10 deficit was not a tough enough hill to climb, Irish hooker David Paice was yellow-carded on the stroke of half-time for retaliation. Geraghty pulled back three point two minutes after the restart but Bath, despite losing another second row, Dominic Day, to an ankle injury, just moved the versatile Matt Garvey up into the second row.
After conceding a succession of penalties the visitors brought on former Wales lock Ian Gough and temporarily stopped the rot, winning a decision of their own and nearly creating a try at the other end when Geraghty broke free. It was short-lived, however, as replacement prop Jamie Hagan was yellow-carded for not binding.
Bath failed to capitalise and enjoyed very little possession, too often spilling the ball that did come their way while the Exiles were far more competitive in the line-out and at the breakdown. The reward for a far more committed second-half performance came on 68 minutes when Geraghty claimed a try on the left after taking advantage of a rebound. But his conversion attempt was wide and Bath still led 33-18.
With fresh legs on the field, the home side roused themselves for the last 10 minutes but lacked the accuracy of their first-half display.
London Irish found it hard going against Bath © Getty Images
And Bath head coach Mike Ford wants his side to push on after their win. He said: "We were very good in the first half. We came out and put last week's defeat at Saracens to bed very early in the game. To score five tries in one half is pretty good. The second half was a bit scrappy from us, from the ruck area and from decisions, but we ride with it. We are very pleased with the five-point win.
"It's very hard to keep up that intensity but we've got to learn to play the full 80 minutes. We can look at the second half but we need to get quickly on to the Sale game on Friday night. It's a quick turnaround and we've got a few injuries but we'll assess them and keep the players fresh."
And Brian Smith was pleased by London Irish's second-half performance. "At half-time we didn't talk about winning - just about fight, character and dignity. And we did play with plenty of fight, pluck and courage in the second half. I don't question the commitment or character of our boys but the first 20 minutes of the game were a bit of a nightmare for us. It gave us a bit of a mountain to climb."
He also laid praise at the door of George Ford, saying of the young No.10: "George is tearing up trees. England are very lucky to have him - he's a class act and it's nice to see him blossom."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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