Nick Abendanon was probably on autopilot when he scored the winning try in injury time at the Recreation Ground. The young full-back, who is tougher than he looks, survived an impact from the Exiles' No 8 George Stowers in the 64th minute to touch down in the 81st – but in between he had no idea that Stowers had been sent off.
Abendanon was flattened by what he described as a swinging arm and for the next few minutes was chewing grass. He did not, though, make a meal of it. "I felt it and I was pretty dazed," he said. "As I was running I tripped a bit and I think he was unlucky to catch me. I don't think he meant to do it."
After losing the Samoan Stowers to a red card, London Irish, who had been oddly conservative in their approach given the pace of their back three, began to play more aggressively. Trailing 12-6, they set up base camp on the Bath line from where Ryan Lamb delivered a long pass to his left which safely found the wing Jonathon Joseph and he went over in the corner. Lamb's conversion, from the acutest of angles, was a gem and the Exiles were in front. They could not, though, count out Abendanon.
When they needed to consolidate and secure possession the Exiles, not for the first time, failed to do so. From a scrum in attacking territory Michael Claassens put through a grub kick which Abendanon fastened on to like a man on a mission. It was a great way for him to finish a match of personal extremes: earlier, in a rare promising attack, he passed far too early to Tom Biggs and then, shortly after half-time and with Bath 9-6 in front, he could have, should have – but didn't, for a couple of reasons – score a spectacular try. To that point it had been all penalties but then Claassens broke from a scrum and flicked an inside pass to Abendanon in a move reprised from the training ground. The full-back then cut through and rounded his opposite number, Delon Armitage, but ... actually, there were a couple of buts.
Armitage somehow managed to catch Abendanon who, in the act of scoring, lost possession. No matter. The referee had ruled that Claassens' pass was forward. "That was lucky for me," Abendanon said. "I hadn't touched it down anyway."
Olly Barkley overshadowed Lamb in the kicking stakes, making five penalties in all, the fifth with the last kick of the match after Lamb's protest at an offence moved Bath 10 yards forwards, putting Barkley in range. His fourth penalty had arrived courtesy of Elvis Seveali'i, who was sent to the sin-bin in the 55th minute for a dangerous tackle on Sam Vesty. Did Vesty complain? He patted Elvis on the back.
Both sides suffered casualties and Bath, apart from losing Matt Banahan, Lee Mears and Simon Taylor, had the prop David Flatman replaced shortly after half-time. "I made a tackle in the first minute of the game and took a whack," Flatman said. " In the first minute of the second half my collar bone got crunched again. I wanted to stay on but the doc said no way. I don't think it's serious but it's bloody painful."
Bath: Try Abendanon; Penalties Barkley 5. London Irish: Try Joseph; Conversion Lamb. Penalties Lamb 2.
Bath: N Abendanon; M Carraro, S Hape, O Barkley, M Banahan (Biggs, 20); T Vesty, M Claassens; D Flatman (Catt, 42), Mears (P Dixon, 22), D Wilson (D Bell, 69), S Hooper, D Grewcock (B Skirving, 69), S Taylor (A Beattie, 35), L Moody, L Watson.
London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo, E Seveali'i, D Bowden (Mapusua, 61), J Joseph; R Lamb, P Hodgson (D Allinson, 69); C Dermody (M Lahiff, 61), J Buckland, F Rautenbach (A Corbisiero, 50), K Roche, B Casey (N Kennedy, 58), D Danaher, S Armitage (Garvey, 22), G Stowers.
Referee D Pearson (Northumberland).Reuse content