5 March 2016
A lick of paint denied London Irish a losing bonus point as they went down 25-17 at Bath in the Aviva Premiership.
Second-half replacement Greig Tonks, who inked a deal with the Exiles earlier this week, could only cannon the near post with his touchline conversion following Alex Lewington's try.
The travelling Exiles faithful will have taken encouragement from their side's display in the latter stages of the contest.
Lewington's score coupled with the boot of Tonks almost salvaged a valuable point as Tom Coventry now prepares his charges for next week's showdown with Saracens in New York.
Bath's attacking prowess, which produced four tries to earn the bonus point victory, proved too much for Irish. Banahan (2), Semesa Rokoduguni and Leroy Houston all ran in tries in front of more than 13,000 spectators at The Rec.
Rhys Priestland and Theo Brophy Clews exchanged a penalty apiece inside the opening 10 minutes of the contest, before Banahan raced in at the corner to touch down within moments of the restart. The impressive Kyle Eastmond was the architect, breaking the Exiles' defensive line to set Banahan on his way. Priestland was unable to add the extras and Mike Ford's men had the early advantage at 8-3.
Not deterred by the concession of the early try, Irish responded in positive fashion with a period of sustained pressure. And after turning down two kickable penalties, Brophy Clews went for goal to close the gap to 8-6. It was just reward for the Exiles who looked efficient with ball in hand in the early stages of the game. However, on 24 minutes Banahan dotted down for his second try of the afternoon with Bath making full use of the overlap on the far side. Priestland's touchline conversion increased Bath's lead to 15-6.
Brophy Clews reduced the arrears to 15-9 with another penalty success with just over 10 minutes to go until the break. The burgeoning talent had the opportunity to convert his fourth penalty of the day from just inside Bath's half as the interval loomed, but his effort skewed wide of the upright and the score remained 15-9. Irish would have no doubt settled for a six point deficit at the break, but the West Countrymen had other ideas with the TMO adjudging Rokoduguni to have squeezed in at the corner after Priestland carved open Irish's defensive line. Priestland sliced the conversion and Irish were 20-9 down at half-time.
Irish came out for the second period in resolute mood and tightened up in defence, combating a series of Bath attacks to keep themselves in the game. It took Bath until the 62nd minute to secure the try bonus point through Houston who touched down in the corner following a sweeping attacking move.
The Exiles continued to press Bath's rearguard, with full-back Sean Maitland, Topsy Ojo and Lewington in menacing form with ball in hand.
With less than 30 seconds left on the clock Irish elected to kick a penalty, with Tonks duly obliging to close the gap to 25-12. There was still enough time for the restart as Irish looked to snatch a late converted try. And right at the death Lewington darted in at the corner. With all hopes of a point hinging on the kick, the ball struck the post and the game finished 25-17.
Score sequence: 3-0, 3-3, 8-3, 8-6, 15-6, 15-9, 20-9, 25-9, 25-12, 25-17
Tries: Banahan (13), (24), Semesa Rokoduguni (38), Leroy Houston (62)
Penalties: Priestland (8)
Tries: Alex Lewington (80)
Penalties: Brophy Clews (10,) (22), (29), Greig Tonks (80)
Bath Rugby: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 1 Max Lahiff, 2 Rob Webber, 3 Henry Thomas, 4 Charlie Ewels, 5 Dominic Day, 6 Matt Garvey, 7 Francois Louw (c), 8 Leroy Houston
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano (Rep. Max Lahiff, 73), 18 David Wilson (Rep. Henry Tomas, 54), 19 Stuart Hooper (rep. Dominic Day, 25), 20 Guy Mercer (Rep. Chris Cook, 72), 21 Jonathan Evans (rep. Francois Low, 66), 22 Max Clark (rep. Rhys Priestland, 68), 23 Horacio Agulla (rep. Matt Banahan)
London Irish: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Topsy Ojo, 10 Theo Brophy Clews, 9 Scott Steele, 1 Tom Smallbone, 2 David Paice, 3 Halani Aulika, 4 Matt Symons, 5 Elliott Stooke, 6 Ian Nagle, 7 Luke Narraway (c), 8 Rob McCusker
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse (rep. David Paice, 66), 17 Tom Court (rep. Halani Aulika, 54), 18 Leo Halavatau (rep. Tom Smallbone, 54), 19 Jerry Sexton (Rep. Rob McCusker, 58), 20 Blair Cowan (rep. Ian Nagle, 22), 21 Darren Allinson (rep: Scott Steele, 72), 22 Greig Tonks (rep: Theo Brophy Clews, 62), 23 Fergus Mulchrone (rep: Ciaran Hearn, 40)
Attendance: 13, 502
Referee: JP Doyle