Revitalised Bath punished London Irish for a catalogue of errors as they secured their third-successive GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP victory.
Veteran prop forward David Barnes, discarded England left wing Matt Banahan and right wing Joe Maddock did the damage with first-half tries to leave Irish without a win from their last six matches in all competitions.
Maddock clinched the bonus point when he raced down the right touchline and avoided Tom Homer’s tackle to grab his second in the 68th minute.
Victory moves Bath, who had inspirational former South Africa fly-half Butch James making his second appearance after nine months on the sidelines following knee ligament surgery, up from 10th to seventh in the table as they mount a late challenge to qualify for next season’s Heineken Cup.
Centre Ryan Davis added 15 points, with three penalties and three conversions for the West Country side who have put the poor start to the season, which saw them win only one of their opening 10 GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP matches, firmly behind them.
Homer, back from England Under-20 duty, scored all Irish’s points, landed five penalties from five attempts before grabbing a consolation try and conversion two minutes from time.
Clearly missing the England trio of brothers Delon and Steffon Armitage and scrum-half Paul Hodgson, the fourth-placed Exiles looked sadly out of sorts.
Bath, by contrast, were boosted by the release of former rugby league star Shontayne Hape, wing Matt Banahan and hooker Lee Mears from the England senior squad.
Bath capitalised on some sloppy Irish play to score the three first-half tries which gave them a stranglehold on the match with a 25-6 interval lead.
After Davis and Homer exchanged early penalties, Barnes scored the opening try in the 14th minute.
Maddock won a high ball, fed flanker Ben Skirving and after he was tackled, 33-year-old Barnes snatched up the loose ball, spotted the clear space in front of him and showed the Exiles a clean pair of heels on his 25-yard run to the line.
Davis added the conversion and then swapped penalties with Homer before two appalling errors gifted Bath two more tries.
Banahan was the beneficiary of Irish fly-half Chris Malone’s clearly-telegraphed pass, grabbing the interception and bursting clear from inside his own half to touch down under the posts, leaving Davis an easy conversion.
Then, late in the first half, England Saxons hooker David Paice butchered a lineout two metres from his own line when he failed to find number eight George Stowers with a hopeless long throw.
Bath stole the ball and moved left, where Irish kept out Banahan and Hape, before switching it back across the full width of the pitch for Maddock to apply the finish, stepping inside the last tackle to cross in the right-hand corner.
Homer pulled back three second-half penalties but young flanker Jamie Gibson was denied a try following long deliberation by the television match official, who ruled out his attempt at a fingertip touchdown as he chased a kick over the Bath line.
Any realistic hopes of a late Irish fightback ended when prop Faan Rautenbach was sin-binned in the 66th minute.
Davis kicked the resulting penalty and converted from the touchline two minutes later following Maddock’s second try.