Guy Mercer bagged a pair of tries to underline his huge potential as Bath Rugby recorded their third Aviva Premiership victory of the season with a 33-18 win over London Irish at The Rec.
The 20-year-old flanker scored two of Bath’s five first-half tries as they ran rampant on home soil to extend their unbeaten home Aviva Premiership record to eight games.
Fellow rising English starlet George Ford also turned in a star performance as he pulled the strings from the midfield, scoring an early candidate for Aviva Premiership try of the season as he ended the afternoon with a personal haul of 13 points.
Shane Geraghty, only brought into the side after Ian Humphreys suffered an injury during the warm-up, scored all 18 points for Irish, who are still without successive Aviva Premiership victories since October 2010.
Bath had named a starting XV which included Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and Matt Garvey; all making their first appearances against former club London Irish since their summer moves to The Rec.
And it was none other than centre Joseph who got the opening score after just four minutes, putting his hand up for selection for England’s upcoming Autumn Internationals as he went over from close range, with Ford adding the extra points.
Geraghty narrowed the deficit to 7-3 with a ninth minute penalty after Bath were caught offside, but flashed his next kick wide of the uprights and the home side took full advantage.
Quick thinking from Ford at a line-out allowed Mercer to break through Irish’s unorganised backline to cross at a canter on 17 minutes, with the architect adding the extra points after the TMO awarded Bath the try.
Ford continued to dictate the tempo and on 26 minutes he extended Bath’s lead further with a stunning solo effort.
Starting from within his own half the 20-year-old embarked on a mazy 60-metre run which opened a large hole in the Exiles back line to cross despite the valiant efforts of Marland Yarde.
And Bath had soon secured the bonus point after a strong lineout drive allowed hooker Rob Webber to cross off the back of a maul to put the home side 26-3 ahead after 30 minutes after Ford failed to add the extras.
Geraghty gave Irish a glimmer of home as he immediately crossed in the corner and converted but as half-time approached Mercer stepped inside after being put through by Fijian wing Semesa Rokoduguni to burst clear for his second of the afternoon.
Ford successfully added the extra points and the away team’s frustrations were evident as David Paice was shown yellow at the end of the half after tempers flared, leaving them down to 14 men and trailing 33-10 at the interval.
Despite their numerical disadvantage the visitors came out strongly in the second half and Geraghty added another three points after an early Irish surge forced an infringement from the hosts at the breakdown.
But Brian Smith’s side were unable to build on their early momentum, with Alex Lewington knocking on in sight of the line on 55 minutes before they went down to 14 men again after Jamie Hagan was yellow carded for collapsing a scrum on the hour mark.
Geraghty crossed again for Irish late on but it was too little too late for the visitors as Bath made it two Aviva Premiership wins from two at The Rec ahead of the visit of West Country rivals Gloucester in four weeks time.