Booth vents his anger as Irish slump to ninth defeat in a row
London Irish 24 Bath 25
Monday 03 January 2011
London Irish head coach Toby Booth struggled to mask his frustration after Olly Barkley's punishing boot consigned the Exiles to a ninth successive defeat. The hapless Irish have not won since 31 October, while Bath savoured their first Premiership triumph in more than three months.
Bath's Barkley floored Irish with the game's final kick – his sixth successful penalty – despite the home team having scored three tries to the West Country club's solitary effort from scrum-half Michael Claassens.
"When you score three tries and concede one, you expect to win the game," said Booth. "I have got a dressing room full of people in disbelief. I felt we did enough to win the game, but we didn't. Discipline has cost us the game."
Barkley's winning kick came after Irish flanker Steffon Armitage collapsed a maul, and Bath's outside centre stepped up to claim the points and leave Irish with the scant consolation of a losing bonus point.
Booth added: "It was a 50-50 call. He [referee Greg Garner] has made the decision ... whether it's the right one? We will go through the referee assessors, but nothing will happen. We were 6-0 on penalties in our favour in the first 30 minutes, which would suggest if you kept the ball, you got a penalty.
"Today was probably the first time in my history we have been penalised twice for collapsing a maul that has not started from a line-out. Ultimately, there are three things that decide a contest – two teams and the referee."
While Booth was left to fret over over another Premiership loss, Bath head coach Steve Meehan did not conceal his delight following a rare victory on the road. "It's a good result. There will be plenty of smiles, and we've got to build on this now. I know how much hard work the players have been doing. I knew that it would turn around, I knew the win would come," he said.
Wing Topsy Ojo's seventh league try of the season looked to have settled a nervy, fractious affair, with his touchdown following earlier scores by Sailosi Tagicakibau and Richard Thorpe.
Scrum-half Paul Hodgson captained Irish after prop Clarke Dermody dropped to the bench, while the home side's replacements also included regular starters Seilala Mapusua, Bob Casey and Ryan Lamb.
Bath welcomed back their captain and No 8 Luke Watson after injury, but his team were immediately rocked back on their heels as Irish claimed a try inside two minutes. The visitors won lineout ball just inside their own half, only to lose possession; they were then forced into retreat as Irish attacked through centre Dan Bowden. With the Bath defence struggling to regroup, Tagicakibau showed his impressive power from 30 metres out, smashing through two attempted tackles before touching down one-handed.
Former Bath player Chris Malone slotted the touchline conversion and then kicked a penalty when Watson infringed, leaving Bath 10-0 behind and already chasing the game.
Barkley edged Bath back into the contest, landing a penalty from 50 metres before a second successful penalty gave Irish food for thought. But the home team quickly re-established themselves, claiming a second try as half-time approached when full-back Delon Armitage fashioned a blistering outside break before sending flanker Thorpe over. Malone again added the extras and, although Barkley completed his penalty hat-trick, Bath could have few complaints about a 17-9 interval deficit.
However, Irish were hampered when Thorpe collected a yellow card for collapsing a maul inside his own 22, and Bath finally capitalised on their territorial dominance through Claassens' dart for the line; Barkley's conversion cut the deficit to a point.
But there was worse to come for the Irish when a 64th-minute Barkley penalty nudged Bath ahead for the first time. The lead, though, lasted less than two minutes after Mapusua – on for Malone – proved enough of a distraction for Bath's defenders, creating space that Ojo exploited by scything through Barkley's weak tackle.
Bowden converted from in front of the posts before a fifth penalty from the deadly Barkley made it24-22, ensuring a fight to the finish. And the glory was Bath's when the nerveless Barkley stepped up to nail the winning penalty.
Scorers: London Irish - Tries: Tagicakibau, Thorpe, Ojo. Conversions: Malone 2, Bowden. Penalties: Malone. Bath - Tries: Claassens. Coversions: Barkley. Penalties: Barkley 6.
London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo, E Seveali'i, D Bowden, S Tagicakibau; C Malone (S Mapusua, 65), P Hodgson (capt, D Allinson, 65); A Corbisiero (D Murphy, 70), J Buckland, F Rautenbach (C Dermody, 60), N Kennedy, M Garvey (R Casey, 66), R Thorpe, G Stowers (K Roche, 66), S Armitage.
Bath: J Cuthbert; M Carraro, O Barkley, S Hape (N Abendanon, 70), M Banahan; A James, M Claassens (M McMillan, 72); D Barnes (D Bell, 46), L Mears (P Dixon, 70), D Wilson, S Hooper, D Grewcock (I Fernandez Lobbe, 60), L Watson (capt), S Taylor, L Moody.
Referee: G Garner (Warwickshire).
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