London Irish beat Bath for first win of the season
September 22, 2012
Marland Yarde helped London Irish to their first win of the season, at home to Bath
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Halani 'Aulika and Jamie Joseph scored a try apiece to help London Irish to their first win of the season with a 29-22 victory at home to Bath.
'Aulika struck just before half-time and it cancelled out the opening try of the match from Bath wing Kyle Eastmond. Joseph struck shortly after the break and his try made the difference on the scoreboard. Steve Shingler kicked five penalties for the Exiles and also landed the two conversions. Bath's Olly Barkley, who had moved to inside-centre to accommodate Steven Donald at fly-half finished with a personal haul 17 points from five penalties and a conversion.
Irish fly-half Ian Humphreys made his first start for the Exiles, as did Tongan prop Aulika. Lock Matt Garvey and flanker Jamie Gibson were drafted back into the side from the team beaten 43-14 at London Wasps last week.
Barkley was switched to the centre from fly-half instead of Ben Williams, who failed a late fitness test, while South African flanker Francois Louw was also a late withdrawal with Ben Skirving coming in off the bench.
Barkley and Shingler exchanged a pair of penalties apiece in the opening exchanges with Irish showing good enterprise as the backs found gaps and only a couple of good tackles prevented them reaching the Bath danger zone.
Shingler was deadly accurate with his boot and, having landed his earlier kicks from 30 and 45 metres, put his third over to give Irish the lead for the first time at 9-6, again from 45 metres.
Bath regained the lead with a well-worked try. Full-back Nick Abendanon was involved twice in a passing movement on the left as Bath tore upfield from halfway. With the Irish defence stretched, Abendanon was tackled 15 metres out but managed to flip the ball inside to Eastmond for the former St Helens and England rugby league flyer to go over.
Barkley converted to give Bath a four-point advantage, but in the dying moments of the half, Irish attacked and found their way deep into the home 22 where, from a line-out, the pack drove prop Aulika over to start his Irish career with a real swing. Shingler added the conversion, and it would have been a very much happier Irish head coach Brian Smith who went to encourage his troops after the past few weeks of woe.
Barkley booted his third penalty just after the re-start but a great backs move from a line-out saw wing Marland Yarde charge through into the midfield and feed Joseph to steam home outside him.
Shingler's conversion stretched the Irish lead to 10 points and suddenly they were in range of victory. The Exiles did not help themselves when flanker Jamie Gibson was sin-binned for a ruck offence as Bath piled on the pressure inside the home 22 but the 14-man Irish cleared their decks.
Barkley's fourth and fifth penalties of the afternoon gave Bath hope of taking the victory, needing only a try to take the lead again. But a moment of indiscipline after 71 minutes was the killer blow as Shingler booted his last penalty, stretching Irish's lead to seven points, and a strong defensive effort at the end ensured a much-needed home success.
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith was relieved to have seen his team avoid slumping to four consecutive losses.
"We had to stop the drive today and we did that. The defence was outstanding and we showed we can break out and score but guys like Matt Garvey were huge in the pack and all the forwards played their part. We have stayed focused. Sport is a great leveller and it is great to get out of the blocks. Yes, it is a relief but now we have to go and do it all again on Friday."
Bath head coach Gary Gold felt his side made the right decision in going for tries when they had the hosts on the rack after flanker Jamie Gibson was yellow-carded for a ruck offence.
Gold added that Bath have enough fire-power in the squad to account for the loss of 30-year-old Barkley when he joins French club Racing Metro after next Saturday's home clash with Sale.
"Stephen Donald is a World Cup-winning kicker, Sam Vesty is a kicker, Tom Heathcote is an outstanding talent and Jack Cuthbert can kick. So Olly is in that position at the moment and that is why he took the kicks, but we're lucky we have very good international players who have played at that level."
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