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Match Reaction: London Irish 23 Bath Rugby 33

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If winning despite not playing your best is a sign of champions then Bath Rugby must be taken seriously as Aviva Premiership Rugby title contenders after coach Toby Booth admitted his side were well below-par in their victory over London Irish.

Henry Thomas and Chris Cook scored breakaway tries in the 33-23 triumph to move the West Country side up to second in the table.   

England international prop Thomas burst through the defence and held off a number of would-be tacklers early in the second half for a memorable try at the Madejski Stadium.

And scrum-half Cook grabbed himself a similar score around 20 minutes later as he evaded two defenders to dot down and put the game beyond doubt.

The platform for victory was established at the scrum though as Bath dominated throughout and were in fact awarded a first-half penalty try when Irish were pinged at the set-piece.

That meant the scoreline read 16-6 at half-time and Booth, whose side saw off Newcastle Falcons last weekend, claims that while the autumn internationals are taking place, the important thing is to get points on the board – in any way possible.

“We didn’t play at our best but all that matters is the score and we’re delighted with the result – it was great backing up last week’s win at home,” he said.

“These international breaks are always fraught with danger as everyone knows with the disruption caused but we’ve got past two stiff tests

“We had to overcome a few challenges, tactically we were working out things on the pitch but you’ve got to give credit to London Irish, they needed a response after last week and were emotionally charged.

“It was a very stop, start game, we couldn’t build any continued pressure but there are games like that and we were mentally tough and that’s pleasing. We’ve got the win and need to take that momentum forward.”

Despite second-half tries from David Paice and James Short, Bath were always largely in control of proceedings.

The Exiles now sit in 11th position in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table with only winless London Welsh below them.

They host Gloucester Rugby next weekend and director of rugby Brian Smith admits he is desperate for his side to get back to winning ways.

And despite club captain George Skivington missing the game due to a late injury, Smith refused to make excuses for his troops’ display.

“The effort was there but our precision wasn’t great and we created some pressure situations for ourselves and they were punished on the scoreboard,” he said. 

“We had some distractions before the game with our skipper dropping out but I thought we managed that quite well and played some good rugby at times.

“We just conceded too many soft points and didn’t maintain the concentration levels needed for the full 80 minutes.

“It’s not about making excuses but putting things in perspective and we’ve got next weekend against Gloucester to put things right.”

This Christmas, Premiership Rugby is offering fans a special gift with selected tickets for the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final 2015. Click here to find out about this limited offer.

London Irish: Fenby; Lewington, Mulchrone, Geraghty, Ojo; Noakes, Steele (Short 68); Court (Parr 64), Paice, Aulika (Halavatau 58), Lyons, Cox, Narraway, Gilsenan, Guest (Allinson 56).
Replacements not used: Stevens, Vukasinovic, Curry, Griffin
 
Bath Rugby: Arscott (Devoto 56); Rokoduguni, Joseph, Eastmond, Banahan (Woodburn 74); Henson, Young (Cook 54); Catt (Auterac 33), Batty (Dunn 62), Thomas (Palma-Newport 68), Hooper, Day, Garvey (Ewels 58), Sisi (Fearns 62), Houston.
 
Scorers

 
London Irish
Tries: Paice, Short
Conversions: Geraghty (2)
Penalties: Geraghty (3)

 
Bath Rugby
Tries: penalty, Thomas, Cook
Conversions: Henson (3)
Penalties: Henson (4)

 
Referee: Andrew Small
Attendance: 8,133
 

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