Matt Banahan went over for a first-half double as Bath Rugby put their patchy recent form behind them to record a comfortable bonus-point victory over London Irish.
Bath had lost five of their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches heading into the clash but Banahan’s two tries, in addition to scores from Semesa Rokoduguni and Leroy Houston, ensured a 25-17 triumph as the home crowd left the Rec happy.
Three Theo Brophy-Clews penalties was all the Exiles could muster until the 79th minute when a Greig Tonks three-pointer and an Alex Lewington try brought them within eight points but Tonks’ last-gasp conversion hit the post as they missed out on a losing bonus point.
The loss means they still sit bottom of the Aviva Premiership table, eight points adrift of 11th-placed Newcastle Falcons, while the search for a second away win in the past 12 months goes on.
With Irish and Bath struggling for form in recent weeks, a fast start was crucial and both sides settled any early nerves with a penalty apiece – Rhys Priestland bisecting the posts from the 22 on seven minutes before Brophy-Clews responded in kind shortly after.
But Bath didn’t take long to restore their lead as Banahan crossed in the corner. Kyle Eastmond made a glorious break through the defence and Houston played the link man to release the winger for the score.
Priestland couldn’t add the conversion but Brophy-Clews was having no such issues from the tee as the Exiles fly-half continued to enhance his burgeoning reputation in the sport by narrowing the deficit to 8-6 with a three-pointer from the right-hand side.
Heading into the clash, Bath had won just two of their six Aviva Premiership Rugby clashes at the Rec this term but Banahan’s second try midway through the first half put them in good shape to improve that record.
Captain Stuart Hooper claimed a clean line-out and after a good drive, the ball was spread to the England international in space who dotted down.
And after Brophy-Clews had slotted another penalty, Rokoduguni got Bath’s third try as he expertly tiptoed the sideline despite the attention of London Irish defenders following good work from Priestland, Banahan and former Exile Tom Homer.
Trailing 20-9 heading into the second half, the visitors came out of the dressing room determined to close the gap but despite some pressure in the 22, they failed to break down a solid home defence.
And Bath effectively ended the game as a contest on the hour mark, while also securing the four-try bonus point, as Houston dived over in the corner following some patient build-up play.
Banahan looked full of confidence as he used his impressive frame to make the initial break before Eastmond produced the final pass for the Australian No.8 to finish it off.
With Bath comfortably clear at 25-9 the game began to peter out but to their credit, Irish almost secured an unlikely losing bonus point at the death.
Firstly, new signing Tonks’ slotted a penalty on 79 minutes and after they regained possession from the restart, Lewington eventually crossed in the corner.
But Tonks’ touchline conversion attempt – which would have earned a point if successful – hit the post and bounced clear.
However, the late drama was of little concern to the home side as they registered a fifth Aviva Premiership Rugby win of the season to pull further clear of their opponents at the bottom of the table.