Bath Rugby produced a stirring second-half blitz to boost their chances of a home Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final with a bonus-point triumph over London Irish at the Rec.
Irish withstood heavy pressure and Jebb Sinclair’s yellow card to lead 13-12 at the break thanks to Tom Court’s try, as the visitors threatened to become only the second team to win away at Bath in the league this season.
Yet with George Ford pulling the strings, the hosts responded in style, scoring four tries in just over 20 minutes as Leroy Houston, Jonathan Joseph, Matt Banahan and Sam Burgess, impressing at flanker, all crossed over.
The bonus point already secure, Semesa Rokoduguni added a fifth try as Bath scored 31 unanswered points, before Blair Cowan touched down for a consolation score late on.
Yet it was too little too late for the Exiles, as Bath moved up to second place in Aviva Premiership Rugby with an emphatic win.
An early scything break from Anthony Watson showed the hosts’ attacking intent as they forced Irish into conceding a penalty that Ford knocked over to give his side a 3-0 lead on three minutes.
The England fly-half doubled that advantage soon after as the Exiles were penalised at the scrum and Ford bisected the posts with a sweet strike from 45 yards out.
After Bath held up an Irish drive over the line, a series of impressive scrums from the Exiles ultimately ended fly-half Chris Noakes converting a penalty to make it 6-3 after 15 minutes.
Yet Ford restored his side’s six-point lead moments later with another impressive long-range effort.
That success with the boot seemed to instil Ford with added confidence in hand as he made a sublime solo break, only to see his looping pass out to Rokoduguni go to ground.
Ford then elected to kick two further penalties to the corner, before finally settling for a simple kick at goal that he converted to make it 12-3 on 27 minutes.
The visitors pegged Bath back once more as Noakes landed his second penalty attempt after Rob Webber went straight to ground at the ruck in midfield.
Sinclair was then sent to the bin as Irish’s penalty count rose but the visitors almost scored the first try as Noakes intercepted and burst clear, only for Watson to reel him in with a searing turn of pace and win the penalty.
Despite their man advantage, Bath ended the first half on the back foot as Irish surged forward through Tom Guest and recycled the ball to allow Court to barrel over from close range, with Noakes adding the extras to make it 13-12 at the break.
Bath captain Stuart Hooper withdrew at half time with a calf injury, but the hosts began brightly as Houston picked up from the base of a secure scrum to dive over, Ford converting to make it 19-13.
That try gave Bath their spark back as Joseph ran onto Francois Louw’s offload before chipping ahead and collecting his kick to finish a sublime effort, with Ford kicking Bath into a 26-13 lead.
The hosts were now playing at a fierce tempo as Ford sucked in defenders to link up with Kyle Eastmond, whose miss pass found Banahan to cross over – Ford missing the extras.
Bath secured the bonus point just after the hour as they set up the driving maul to allow Burgess to touch down and Ford converted to make it 38-13.
The Exiles were dealt another blow as Dan Leo was shown a yellow card and Bath eventually capitalised to score a fifth, working an overlap on the right to put Rokoduguni over.
Ford missed the tough conversion as Bath led 43-13 inside the final ten minutes, before Cowan dotted down and Shane Geraghty missed his conversion with the last kick of the game.