Bath Underwhelm in Win at London Irish

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READING, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Matt Banahan of Bath Rugby scores their first try during the Aviva Premiership match between London Irish and Bath Rugby at Madejski Stadium on November 19, 2017 in Reading, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Defeat at home to Bath confirmed London Irish’s status as the Aviva Premiership’s new basement club after Worcester registered their first win of the season at Sixways on Saturday afternoon.

Bath Underwhelm in Win at London Irish

Todd Blackadder’s visiting side executed an unconvincing away performance owing much to the right boot of fly-half Freddie Burns. The Bath Director of Rugby bemoaned “basic errors” that meant his side went into the games latter stages still unsure of the win.

The obligatory London Irish late charge gave the Bath side plenty of defending to do as the clock headed towards the red and they were camped on their own try line for the final five minutes. London Irish peppered the visitors line with phase after phase of pick and drive but the referee eventually saw an infringement that allowed Bath to breath one huge sigh of relief.

London Irish produced glimpses, especially in the final quarter, that gave their home faithful hope but that opening weekend win over Harlequins at Twickenham is looking more and more like a distant memory. Nick Kennedy’s demeanour after the contest was one of calculated frustration given the opportunities spurned by his side.

English Talent Shines Through

It was two English capped players, who’s international days now look beyond them now, Burns and Banahan who provided all of Bath’s 16 point in the opening 40. Banahan going over to cancel out London Irish’s early lead provided by Tommy Bell’s penalty. Burns kicked a further two penalties, one monstrous strike from halfway, and nonchalantly slotted a drop goal.

James Marshall dived over unopposed midway through the first 40 to cut the gap to two points after a show and go had rendered the Bath defenders mere observers. The home side continued to create chances as the chance progressed but execution proved to be their worst enemy.

Sustained pressure on the Bath line with five minutes remaining eventually paid dividends as Scott Steele dived over after several forward led phases. Greig Tonks kicked the conversion to bring them within four points. A late penalty allowed Irish to kick for the corner and retrieve their own lineout. That brought phase after phase of attack and victory was just a few blades of grass short, but at this level those are the margins.

Todd’s Assessment 

Blackadder said he was disappointed his side put themselves in a situation where they had to call upon their defence to ensure they left with the four points. Defeat on Friday night for Saracens meant they surrendered top spot to Exeter after they beat Harlequins 48 hours later, and Blackadder was not too proud to concede that the simplicity and low error count of the two sides is what separates them from his Bath outfit at present.

“At the moment, these games are about doing the basics – home and away. This game was going to be a challenge. We probably kicked a couple of positions away, we didn’t quite build pressure.”

“It’s not a lack of effort by any means but it comes back to doing our simple basics well and we just didn’t do that.”

Despite the understandable frustration from the former Crusaders coach he can look at the league table with some comfort. Bath occupy the final play-off spot, but only four points separate themselves from Newcastle in ninth.

Bath welcome a stereotypically poor travelling Quins side next weekend eager to rid of the errors that overshadowed their visit to the Madejski. London Irish meanwhile have the unenviable task of halting a seemingly rejuvenated Wasps side.

London Irish: Marshall, Cokanasiga, Mulchrone, McLean, Lewington, Bell, Meehan, Franks, Paice, Du Plessis, van der Merwe, De Chaves, Northcote-Green, Gilsenan, Cowan

Bath: Homer, Jack Wilson, James Wilson, Banahan, Brew, Burns, Fotuali’i, Obano, Dunn, Perenise, Charteris, Stooke, Garvery, Mercer, Grant

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