Aviva Premiership: Nick Abendanon notched a try as Bath beat London Irish
Last Updated: 18/02/13 5:25am
Nick Abendanon notched a try as Bath beat London Irish 40-16 in the Aviva Premiership to make it six successive wins in all competitions.
Substitutes Nathan Catt and Anthony Perenisealso also touched down late on and the hosts were awarded a penalty try in their bonus-point victory.
Stephen Donald kicked an early penalty before replacement fly-half Tom Heathcote converted all four tries and also booted three penalties.
In response, Tom Homer kicked three penalties for the Exiles before replacement scrum-half Jack Moates ran in a thrilling second-half breakaway try, converted by Ian Humphreys.
It was quite a comedown for the Exiles after their victory over Saracens last weekend but they were undermined by a penalty count of 18-5 - and three yellow cards - with the defeat leaving them back in the relegation dogfight.
But the visitors took an unlikely 6-0 lead with two early penalties from Homer before Donald quickly pulled back three points for Bath when Tom Biggs was tackled high by Topsy Ojo.
Donald went off injured shortly afterwards, replaced by Heathcote and Bath then lost their captain, Francois Louw, to a hip injury too.
They quickly shrugged that off, however, earning a penalty try on the half hour when Ojo again tackled Biggs by the neck - and this time collected a yellow card. Heathcote converted.
Five minutes later and direct from a line-out the home side struck again. Heathcote attacked going right and his perfectly flighted pass gave Abendanon just enough space to slide over in Marland Yarde's grasp.
The fly-half added the conversion from wide out but Homer landed a third penalty for a half-time score of 17-9.
The hosts asserted themselves in the second period to seal the bonus point win and continue their remarkable transformation from the side that stuttered through the first half of the season.
On the resumption, the Exiles' pack conceded a penalty at the breakdown, which Heathcote converted.
Still the penalty count mounted and Homer was the second to see a yellow for a cynical hand on the floor and Heathcote's penalty made it 23-9.
But just as it seemed the life was being squeezed out of the Irish challenge, they responded with a remarkable try after 64 minutes.
Humphreys dummied his way out of the 22, found Moates in support and the replacement scrum-half sent Yarde on a 60 metre run to the Bath 22. Humphreys was on his shoulder to send Moates over in the corner and the fly-half knocked over the conversion to make it a one-score game.
Bath then spurned a simple penalty at the other end but were held under the posts. Irish defended the scrum bravely and were rewarded when Ben Skirving eventually knocked on.
When handed another penalty under the posts Bath did the sensible thing and called up Heathcote to kick the goal as replacement back row Jon Fisher became the third Exiles player to go to the bin.
Bath then wrapped up the victory after 76 minutes when Nathan Catt forced his way over, with Heathcote adding the conversion for a 33-16 lead. Perenise's try was the icing on the cake.