Robinson makes way for tomorrow: Rugby

Bath 46 London Irish 3
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The Independent Online
Andy Robinson lasted precisely 62 minutes at the Recreation Ground on Saturday, which was rather longer than London Irish were able to manage. By way of emphasising the chasm that continues to separate the haves and have-nots of the Courage League, Bath's talismanic open-side flanker then boldly announced his plans for the future just as the Exiles were wondering whether they had a future at all.

The champions' player-coach will retire from active service at the end of the domestic campaign, although he has no intention of allowing fitness to run to fat. "I'll remain a registered player and keep myself available for emergencies, but I want to devote everything to coaching from the start of next season," he said, having played a full part in trussing up the London Irish pack so comprehensively that they resembled an early Easter turkey.

At 32, "Robbo" has had his fill of an unforgiving trade; it is, he believes, time for a new generation of ambitious tough nuts to pay their dues. Once Bath had disappeared out of sight as the clock ticked past the hour mark, he took a decision that would have been beyond the daring of any other coach in the country and voluntarily made way for Nathan Thomas. As he is not renowned for his altruism, however, it would be no surprise if Robinson woke up this morning demanding "clear the air" talks with himself.

Poor London Irish. Denied the services of Niall Hogan, their international scrum-half, due to a contractual wrangle with the governing body in Dublin, they saw their best efforts evaporate into the gun-barrel sky as John Mallett, Kevin Yates and Robinson himself ground out tries from close range. "We competed superbly in the first half but the truth is on the scoreboard," said Willie Anderson, their coach.

That truth was of the painful variety. For all the wit and ingenuity of David Humphreys at outside-half - a genuine Lions candidate, it seems - and the untamed athleticism of Jeremy Davidson in all phases of the forward engagement, the opposition tryline was as distant as the green fields of Killarney. One single, miserable penalty was all they had to show for their endeavours.

Bath: Tries Sleightholme 3, Lyle 2, Mallett, Yates, Robinson; Conversions: Callard 3. London Irish: Penalty Humphreys.

Bath: J Callard; J Sleightholme, J Guscott, P de Glanville (capt; M Perry, 74), A Adebayo; M Catt, C Harrison; K Yates, G Dawe (F Mendez, 62), J Mallett, M Haag, N Redman, R Webster, D Lyle, A Robinson (N Thomas, 62).

London Irish: C O'Shea; T Howe, J Bishop, N Burrows, N Woods; D Humphreys, T Ewington; J Fitzpatrick, R Kellam (A Redmond, 63), L Mooney (I McLoughlin, 63), G Fulcher, J Davidson, K O'Connell, R Yeabsley (B Walsh, 65), K Dawson.

Referee: G Hughes (Manchester).