Bath breeze past London Irish for Semi-final spot
CHALLENGE CUP REPORT: Bath Rugby cruised into the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-finals with a 26-13 win over London Irish on Friday at The Rec.
A brace from Will Stuart as well as tries from Josh McNally and Challenge Cup Man of the Match Zach Mercer proved enough for the West Country outfit to clinch the first spot in the last four.
London Irish started the better of the two sides and took a 7-0 lead through hooker Agustin Creevy who splintered away from a rolling maul to power over the whitewash, with Jackson making the conversion.
The lead lasted just four minutes as Bath flexed their muscles at the maul, with McNally the man to cross and Ben Spencer converting to level the scores.
Irish proved stubborn opponents and had chances to take the lead but it was the hosts who scored on the 27 minute mark and moved into a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
It came from some stunning Taulupe Faletau footwork, collecting a neat offload before kicking into the Irish 22 where Jackson would knock on.
As Bath collected possession, they worked the overload out wide and crossed the whitewash through Stuart.
The lead was then stretched out to 19-7 as the Bath pick-and-drive proved too powerful for London Irish as Stuart bulldozed over for his second of the evening.
Jackson trimmed the gap with a three-pointer just before the break and although it took another 25 minutes for the next points, it was another successful penalty kick from the flyhalf to make it a six-point game.
But any hopes of an Irish comeback were soon extinguished as Mercer peeled away from a dominant scrum and powered over from close range.
Bath will find out their semi-final opponents on Sunday after the conclusion of ASM Clermont Auvergne v Toulouse
Tries: McNally, Stuart 2, Mercer
Cons: Spencer 3
For London Irish
Pens: Jackson 2
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Josh Bayliss, 6 Taulupe Faletau, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Max Clark , 23 Alex Gray.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Theo Brophy Clews, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Matt Rogerson (captain), 5 Rob Simmons, 4 George Nott, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Facundo Gigena.
Replacements: 16 Matt Cornish, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Chunya Munga, 20 Ben Donnell, 21 Sean O’Brien, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 James Stokes.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe (England), Phil Watters (England)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)