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In a game that never really got flowing it came down to crucial decisions from all involved in the match that determined the outcome. Bath scored both the tries in the match and all of Irish’s 12 points came from the boot of Tom Homer.
Irish enjoyed a strong start to the game and plenty of possession in the opening minutes. Jamie Gibson hit a great line off a short Dan Bowden pass to break through the visitors defence, however except for that blip the Bath defence held firm.
Bath had the better of the following 15 minutes. They were throwing different attacking threats at the home defence but were unable to break it down.
Irish lost Jonathan Joseph after 18 minutes when he made way for Steve Shingler. The loss of Joseph was a big blow for Toby Booth as the 20 year old centre has been very impressive so far this season. Credit to Steve Shingler who came on and played well.
The first half continued to be a very stop, start affair as both sides failed to get any momentum with ball in hand. From a territory perspective it was an even affair.
Bath opened the scoring five minutes before half time. The Exiles had minutes earlier lost Delon Armitage to the sin bin and immediately after the extra man advantage paid dividends for Bath. Sam Vesty dived over for the score after good initial work from the Bath tight forwards.
Irish had chances leading into the break but to no avail. The half finished Bath 5 London Irish 0.
Tom Homer had his first kick of the afternoon three minutes into the second half and it went straight through the posts to cut the Bath lead to two points. The visitors were penalised for slowing down Irish ball in the ruck.
Irish were the more dominant side upfront with Max Lahiff and Paulica Ion putting plenty of pressure on their opposite numbers. The pressure told as Bath were penalised for the second time in five minutes to give Homer his second kick of the game. It crept over off the post to give London Irish the lead.
Bath regained the lead ten minutes later in one of the most controversial moment of the game. Dave Attwood dived into the corner and looked to have been tackled out by Darren Allinson. The TMO faced with a very difficult decision and opted to award the try to Attwood. Sam Vesty missed the conversion but nevertheless Bath were back in front 10-6.
Irish came back into the contest well after the try decision. Tom Homer kicked another penalty to make it a one point ball game after the new front row trio of Corbisiero, Rautenbach and Buckland continued the good work that the three they replaced had started.
Irish upped the tempo going into the final 10 minutes with runners picking theirs lines off Bowden and the forwards clearing out rucks quickly to create quick ball. The Bath defence was too eager and drifted offside to gift Homer another penalty attempt from in front of the posts which he duly accepted.
Interpretation played a huge role in the final two minutes and the overall outcome of the game. The ball was on the deck and there to be contested by both sides. Shontayne Hape and Declan Danaher both contested the ball on the floor and looked to win the ball fairly. Not according to referee David Rose who penalised Hape and awarded Bath a penalty in a very kickable position. Sam Vesty made no mistake and won the game for his side.
London Irish travel to Welford Road to take on the Leicester Tigers next Saturday.
Score sequence (London Irish first): 0-5, 3-5, 6-5, 6-10, 9-10, 12-10, 12-13
Scorers: London Irish: Penalties: Tom Homer (44, 49, 68, 75); Bath: Tries: Sam Vesty (35), Dave Attwood (63); Penalties: Sam Vesty (78)
London Irish team
15. Delon Armitage; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Jonathan Joseph (rep: Steve Shingler, 18); 12. Shontayne Hape; 11. Tom Homer; 10. Dan Bowden (Captain); 9. Darren Allinson; 1. Max Lahiff (rep: Alex Corbisiero, 54); 2. David Paice (rep: James Buckland, 57); 3. Paulica Ion (rep: Faan Rautenbach, 58); 4. Nick Kennedy; 5. Bryn Evans (rep: James Sandford, 63); 6. Declan Danaher; 7. Jamie Gibson; 8. Richard Thorpe (rep: Jebb Sinclair, 63)
Replacements: 16. James Buckland; 17. Alex Corbisiero; 18. Faan Rautenbach; 19. James Sandford; 20. David Sisi; 21. Adam Thompstone; 22. Steve Shingler; 23. Ross Samson
15. Nick Abendanon; 14. Olly Woodburn; 13. Matt Carraro; 12. Matt Banahan; 11. Tom Biggs (rep: Jack Cuthbert, 40); 10. Sam Vesty; 9. Michael Claassens; 1. Nathan Catt (rep: Charlie Beech, 65); 2. Lee Mears (rep: Ross Batty, 75); 3. Anthony Perenise (rep: David Wilson, 56); 4. Stuart Hooper (Captain); 5. Dave Attwood (rep: Ryan Caldwell, 42-54, 75-); 6. Ben Skirving; 7. Guy Mercer; 8. Simon Taylor
Replacements: 16. Ross Batty; 17. Charlie Beech; 18. David Wilson; 19. Ryan Caldwell; 20. Andy Beattie; 21. Chris Cook; 22. Paul Roberts; 23. Jack Cuthbert
Referee: David Rose