London Irish secured their first league double over Bath Rugby since the 2006/07 season with a 25-10 win at the Recreation Ground in Round 17 of the Gallagher Premiership.
The Exiles won for the first time away from home to Bath in the league since 2009, but it was the home side’s Josh Bayliss who opened proceedings with the maiden try of the game.
Declan Kidney’s men took a 12-10 lead into the interval after tries from initially Paddy Jackson and then replacement Ben White, Jackson contributing 15 points on the day.
Whilst Bath’s scoring stagnated, Irish continued adding to the scoreboard in the second 40 with a converted Benhard Janse van Rensburg try and a Jackson penalty, as the boys wrapped up their first away win of the 2022/23 Premiership campaign.
It was a fast and furious opening in the West Country, both teams getting the chance to progress forward in broken field play but breakdown penalties stunted any threat of a charge on the whitewash.
After winning a penalty advantage at the scrum, Irish earned their first red zone entry with a lineout catch and drive move, but after a recycle of the ball, good industry at the breakdown from Bath switched possession at the Rec.
The Blue, Black and Whites would camp out in the Exiles 22 next, but Irish forced a handling error with some stout off-the-ball effort, able to make an exit after another incomplete attempt at the scrum from the hosts.
Johann van Graan’s team would come again, however, Irish unable to execute their usual cohesive attacking threat but a knock-on from a lineout throw for Bath relieved some pressure for the time being.
The game’s first try arrived via Bath’s play around the fringes, Rob Simmons being carded in the build-up to the score as Josh Bayliss dotted down with an Orlando Bailey conversion added.
The reply was incredible for Declan Kidney’s men, working down the shortside with a flowing passing move involving a Tom Pearson offload to Paddy Jackson, finding fellow back James Stokes who returned the compliment to Jackson to finish well in contact.
A brilliant retort from the travelling Exiles was completed with Jackson converting his own score, Irish now even on the scoreboard despite being a man down.
Ben Spencer put his team back into the lead after a scrum penalty was conceded by Bath this time around, Irish still faced with time off the ball but Bath closing the gap at the lineout gave the ball back to the Exiles.
Another incomplete set-piece from the Somerset team granted Irish possession until the half’s end, excellent carries from Jackson and replacement Ben White advancing their side up and into five metres out.
Conceding several penalty advantages, Irish’s opponents were well and truly under the cosh and their efforts subsided upon a neat snipe from White to take Irish ahead into the sheds.
Excellent effort on kick chases characterised Irish’s showing in the opening exchanges of the second period, James Stokes, Lucio Cinti and the latter’s compatriot, Juan Martín González, all ensuring territory remained on the side of Irish.
After a deft lineout steal from Api Ratuniyarawa, Bath could have regained the foothold in the match minutes later from a Piers Francis place kick, the attempt drifting astray as Irish held a two-point cushion.
His half-back partner Spencer saw yellow in a blow to the team for a deliberate handling infringement, yet the handling that preceded it from his opponents was awe-inspiring with notable contributions throughout the forwards.
Irish had a shot at goal from Spencer’s infringement and Jackson added three more to his tally, Bath threatening to at least level the scoresheet but going straight off their feet at the ruck did them no favours.
A high tackle from Bath replacement Fergus Lee-Warner on Jackson meant their complement was reduced to 13, and Irish made them pay after going to the corner and making ground from the resulting maul push.
Off the back of the shove, White located Rory Jennings, whose cool no-look pass met his midfield partner Benhard Janse van Rensburg to saunter over, Jackson converting.
Irish smelt blood, excellent kicking from hand from White and more lineout drives brought them close but a spill from Irish, and then Bath, meant they were still in the red zone.
Jackson elected to take the points and put Irish ahead by two converted scores after a brilliant effort at the put-in, but it was time to front up in defence.
From an offside penalty, Bath found touch from hand but Irish held the ball up over the line with recycled phases from the hosts, the first of many contributions to preserve the score.
A colossal hit from Janse van Rensburg and subsequent steal on the ground from Lucio Cinti was excellent, then White’s exposing of backfield space allowed Irish territory and a recovery jackal from Tom Pearson closed out the affair.
Score sequence (London Irish second): 5-0, 7-0, 7-5, 7-7, 10-7, 10-12, 10-15, 10-20, 10-22, 10-25.
Bath Rugby: Tries: Bayliss (21); Conversions: Bailey (22); Penalties: Spencer (28); Yellow Card: McConnochie (40), Spencer (55), Lee-Warner (58).
London Irish: Tries: Jackson (25), White (40), Janse van Rensburg (60); Conversions: Jackson (26) (61); Penalties: Jackson (55)(68); Yellow Card: Simmons (20).
15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga , 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Piers Francis (Bailey 16 HIA, 64), 9 Ben Spencer (Schreuder 75); 1 Beno Obano (Morozov 58), 2 Tom Dunn (Annett 57), 3 D’Arcy Rae (Stuart 45), 4 Dave Attwood (Lee-Warner 45), 5 Josh McNally (Roux 55), 6 Miles Reid, 7 Sam Underhill (Cooper 66), 8 Josh Bayliss
16 Niall Annett, 17 Valeriy Morozov, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Fergus Lee-Warner, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Chris Cloete
15 James Stokes (Joseph 70), 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Rory Jennings (Morisi 77) 11 Ben Loader, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Joe Powell (White 31);1 Facundo Gigena (Haffar 73), 2 Agustín Creevy (Willemse 45), 3 Oliver Hoskins (Chawatama 57), 4 Api Ratuniyarawa (Caulfield 57), 5 Rob Simmons, 6 Juan Martín González, 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Matt Rogerson (c) (Cunningham-South 73).
16 Mike Willemse, 17 Tarek Haffar, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 Josh Caulfield, 20 Chandler Cunningham-South, 21 Ben White, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Will Joseph.
Referee: Mr Anthony Woodthorpe