Bath Rugby made it six wins on the spin as they kept alive their Aviva Premiership play-off charge with a 40-16 bonus-point win against London Irish despite injuries to Stephen Donald and skipper Francois Louw.
Both players limped off in the opening 40 minutes but a penalty try following a high tackle from Exiles wing Topsy Ojo and a Nick Abendanon score, with Nathan Catt and Anthony Perenise going over after the break, were enough for Bath to take the points.
London Irish will be hugely disappointed with the result and the performance, despite a wonderful second-half score from Jack Moates, having won five of their last six games, including a memorable win last weekend against Saracens as they continue to battle against the Premiership drop.
Bath dominated the early possession and territory, with their experienced front five – including international props Paul James and David Wilson; back from Wales and England Six Nations duty respectively, pulling the strings.
New Zealand World Cup winner Donald had the first shot at goal after just three minutes after London Irish were penalised for pulling down a Bath maul but the No.10 missed.
Donald was made to pay for his error in front of the posts as London Irish full-back Tom Homer – against the run of play – showed the Kiwi how it should be done, threading the ball through the posts after Bath were penalised for failing to release.
And just two minutes later it was 6-0 to the visitors – who last week shocked high-flyers Saracens to win – as Homer knocked over his second penalty after Bath messed up the restart.
On 18 minutes Donald, who minutes later hobbled off injured, hauled Bath back into the game – slotting over a penalty of his own after London Irish winger Topsy Ojo escaped a yellow card for a high tackle.
As the game progressed, London Irish No.10 Ian Humphreys started to get the exciting Exiles back-line moving and after going through the phases, Bath were penalised for offside but Homer missed a very kickable penalty on 24 minutes.
There was further bad news for Bath shortly after as skipper Louw was forced off with a hip injury and was replaced by Mat Gilbert.
The disruption to the backrow and at fly-half did little to derail Bath’s attacking rugby as the home side were awarded a penalty try on 29 minutes; converted by Tom Heathcote.
Tom Biggs was tackled high just as he seemed certain to go over in the corner by former England wing Ojo – referee David Rose awarded the penalty try and sent the London Irish man to the bin.
And it got even better four minutes later as Abendanon chose not to put Horacio Agulla over in the corner and instead bustled his way over, with Heathcote again adding the extras for a 17-6 lead.
Homer ensured Irish were still within touching distance at the break though as he landed his third penalty of the afternoon with the final kick of the half.
Bath extended their lead four minutes after the break as the Exiles were penalised for bad language at the breakdown and Heathcote made them pay with an accurate strike at goal.
Despite failing to add to their score in the first ten minutes of the second-half, London Irish were much improved after the break, with Marland Yarde particularly menacing for the Exiles with ball in hand.
But just as it looked as though London Irish might find a way back into the game, Homer became the second Exile to receive a yellow card.
He was penalised on 53 minutes for failing to release Bath’s Kyle Eastmond, with Heathcote extending the score to 23-9 from the subsequent shot at goal.
Midway through the half, Bath turned down a shot at goal and instead kicked for the corner, they successfully claimed their lineout and drove over the London Irish line but under a pile of bodies there was adjudged to be a knock-on by Rose.
With a man disadvantage, Humphreys dragged London Irish back in the game, dummying two Bath defenders to spark a long-range try as Jack Moates finished a flowing move, with the Exiles No.10 adding the extras with a quite brilliant kick from the touchline to make it 23-16 with just over 15 minutes to play.
Heathcote importantly stretched Bath’s lead to ten points with just five minutes remaining as he slotted a penalty after Jon Fisher was yellow carded for London Irish – the unlucky recipient for persistent infringement.
With four minutes remaining the game was effectively sealed as Catt went over for Bath, with Heathcote adding the extras, while in stoppage time Anthony Perenise secured the bonus point by burrowing over, with Heathcote again converting to take his personal tally to 17 points.