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Match report: Bath 63 London Irish 19

05 May 2018
Match report: Bath 63 London Irish 19

Matt Banahan brought the curtain down on his Bath career with a hat-trick that helped fire his team to a sixth-placed finish in Aviva Premiership Rugby.

The 31-year-old, who departs to join Gloucester at the end of the season, signed off at the Rec by going over three times against relegated London Irish, with results elsewhere helping Todd Blackadder’s troops clinch the final Champions Cup qualification berth.

It took just three minutes for Bath to open their account and Banahan was at the centre of the action, linking up with Cooper Vuna to tee up Taulupe Faletau for the first try of the game, Rhys Priestland converting.

Six minutes later, Vuna grabbed his second score in as many games, scooping up the ball and crashing over after Faletau, Francois Louw and Tom Ellis had combined, Priestland again adding the extras.

The visitors immediately set about clawing away at the early deficit, winning a succession of penalties as they piled the pressure on Bath but failed to fashion a breakthrough.

And with 22 minutes on the clock, Banahan, playing at centre, enjoyed his moment in the sun as he bundled over to mark his final appearance in blue, black and white with a try, Priestland booting the conversion to make it 21-0.

Just past the half-hour mark, James Wilson darted over from close range to secure the hosts’ bonus point, Priestland adding the extras for a fourth time, and on the stroke of half-time, Elliott Stooke got in on the act after a blistering run from Tom Dunn, Priestland again converting.

The second period took a while to catch fire but 13 minutes after the restart, Banahan raised the roof as he crashed over from a driving maul.

Shortly afterwards, Wilson collected a chipped kick from Freddie Burns before racing away to grab his second of the game, the latter adding the extras.

With almost an hour gone, though, Irish finally got themselves on the scoreboard through Josh McNally, who held off a raft of opponents to stretch an arm over the line.

But Banahan was the undisputed star of the show and shortly afterwards, he bided his time from behind a maul before bursting over the line to bag his hat-trick – his 99th for Bath – Burns converting.

There was still time for Will Vaughan to bag his first score for the club with less than 10 minutes to go, Burns kicking two more points for a third time, while at the other end, Greig Tonks booted the ball forward before racing away and teeing up Ben Loader for a debut Exiles try, Tonks converting.

Banahan nearly made it to 100 Bath tries in the final minute but the score was ruled out for a double movement, with McAnally successful in scoring late on for Irish, David Paice kicking the extras in his final game before retirement.