Barkley dampens Catt's return

Bath 27 - London Irish 15
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The Independent Online

Bath spoiled Mike Catt's Recreation Ground homecoming with their fourth straight win in the Premiership yesterday. The victory lifted the West Countrymen into fourth place, but their failure to score a fourth try cost them a bonus point that would have put them past Sale and into a play-off spot.

Bath spoiled Mike Catt's Recreation Ground homecoming with their fourth straight win in the Premiership yesterday. The victory lifted the West Countrymen into fourth place, but their failure to score a fourth try cost them a bonus point that would have put them past Sale and into a play-off spot.

Catt left Bath last summer after 12 years of service, and the 62-times capped England back's new side were on the wrong end of three tries in the first half. But Bath had only an Olly Barkley penalty to show for their increasingly frenetic efforts in a second period which boasted 10 minutes of stoppage time. The Irish, who were under pressure continuously, managed an annoying try from Ryan Strudwick in the 86th minute.

Nineteen minutes of the first half had passed before there were any points on the scoreboard, Barkley kicking a penalty for Bath from 35 metres.

The first try came less than two minutes later, when Bath's fly-half Chris Malone hoisted a high kick which was spilled by Mark Mapletoft. Barkley toe-poked the ball on, gathered it up and slid over the line for the score, converting the try himself.

Mapletoft made amends with a short-range penalty five minutes later to make it 10-3, but Bath then scored twice through cleverly-worked line-out moves, first from the No 8 Zak Fea'unati and then through the centre Alex Crockett. Barkley converted the latter from the touchline but four minutes into stoppage time in the first half he saw his pass intercepted by Justin Bishop, who ran 60 metres to score and leave Irish 24-8 behind at the break.

A flurry of tactical substitutions early in the second half ruined what had been an entertaining game. Barkley added a penalty after 55 minutes, before Strudwick's late try consoled the visitors.

Bath: Tries Barkley, Fea'unati, Crockett; Conversions Barkley 3; Penalties Barkley 2. London Irish: Tries Bishop, Strudwick; Conversion Everitt; Penalty Mapletoft.

Bath: M Perry; F Welsh, A Crockett (J Maddock, 77), O Barkley, B Daniel (S Davey, 84); C Malone, N Walshe (M Wood, 66); D Barnes (H Kok, 80), J Humphreys (capt; L Mears, 45), D Bell, J Hudson, R Fidler, A Beattie, I Fea'unati (G Delve 35), M Lipman (J Scaysbrook, 30).

London Irish: M Horak (N Mordt, 17); J Bishop, G Appleford, M Mapletoft (B Everitt, 55), S Staniforth; M Catt, P Hodgson (D Edwards, 55); D Wheatley (A Halsey, 69), D Paice (R Russell, 42), R Hardwick, N Kennedy (R Strudwick, 59), B Casey, S Gustard, P Murphy (R Reid, 42), D Danaher.

Referee: D Rose (Wales).

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