Abendanon survives Stowers hit to seal Bath win

Bath 20 London Irish 13
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The Independent Online

It took them long enough to cross the line but when they did it provided the ingredients for a late late show. In a match between the two clubs who had secured maximum points in the first round of the Premiership, London Irish, depleted by a yellow and a red card, were down 12-6 when they decided to launch a strong offensive. Their forwards battered away at the Bath line until Ryan Lamb delivered a long pass which enabled the left wing, Jonathan Joseph, to cross in the corner. Lamb nailed the conversion to make it 13-12 with 79 minutes on the clock. Could they hang on? No chance.

In the first minute of added time Irish squandered possession by knocking on and they were exposed at the scrum, Michael Claassens' grubber kick rolling into the hands of Nick Abendanon. The full-back (pictured, right) took it at full throttle for the winning score.

Abendanon had survived a high tackle 17 minutes earlier, when the Irish No 8, George Stowers, stuck out an arm. The referee, David Pearson, issued a red card. Abendanon took several minutes to regain his feet.

Bath's new chairman, Bruce Craig, made his fortune in pharmaceuticals and some of his products might have come in handy here. Bath lost two thirds of their front row, the ex-Lion back-rower Simon Taylor and the wing Matt Banahan. Banahan was injured after making the first significant break, when he capitalised on a failed interception attempt. His inside pass to Lewis Moody saw the England flanker taken man and ball.

Delon Armitage produced the run of the match, taking play 50 yards to the Bath 22, but from the scrum Paul Hodgson was tackled in possession. If Hodgson has a fault it's in the speed of his delivery. It was left to the goalkickers to keep the scoreboard alive. Olly Barkley emerged triumphant, although there wasn't a lot in it.

Lamb struck with an excellent penalty in the second minute, Barkley levelling a few minutes later. Barkley, however, did not have to deal with the attentions of Moody, who hurt Lamb while charging down a clearance, and he kicked two penalties in a first half which ended with a haphazard passage of play. A Barkley clearance rebounded off his captain, Luke Watson, and the reward for the Irish was a penalty in front which Lamb kicked.

A try, any try, was most welcome and it seemed to arrive shortly after the interval when Claassens flipped a defence-breaking inside pass to Abendanon, who sprinted into the Irish 22 and around Delon Armitage. The Exiles full-back made a great recovery and his tackle appeared to cause Abendanon to lose the ball. Mr Pearson, however, had ruled the pass from Claassens forward. The boos would have been louder but for Abendanon's slip.

After 55 minutes, Elvis Seveali'i committed a dangerous tackle on Sam Vesty and was sent to the sin-bin. Vesty patted Elvis on the back. No harm done, except that up stepped Barkley to kick the penalty to make it 12-6. Nine minutes later he had a chance to maintain his immaculate strike rate when Stowers had an early shower, but he missed.

Cue the frantic finale and Barkley, deep into injury time, had the chance to kick his fifth penalty. Lamb protested long and loudly at a penalty award, too long and loudly for the referee, who marched Irish back 10 yards. That put Barkley in range. At least the Irish got a bonus point.

Bath:N Abendanon; M Carraro, S Hape, O Barkley, M Banahan (T Biggs, 22); S Vesty, M Claasens; D Flatman (N Catt, 43), L Mears (P Dixon, 25), D Wilson (D Bell, 77), S Hooper, D Grewcock (B Skirving, 77), S Taylor (A Beattie, 38), L Watson (capt), L Moody.

London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo, E Seveali'i, D Bowden (S Mapusua, 66), J Joseph; R Lamb, P Hodgson (D Allinson, 76); C Dermody (capt; M Lahiff, 66), J Bckland, F Rautenbach (A Corbisiero, 51), K Roche, B Casey (N Kennedy, 60), D Danaher, G Stowers, S Armitage (M Garvey, 24).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).

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