Henson shines as Bath sink Irish
Gavin Henson booted an 18-point haul as Bath moved up to second in the Premiership with a 33-23 win over struggling London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.
The visitors' pack was the dominant force throughout as Irish conceded numerous penalties, especially when under pressure in the scrums. However behind the scrum, Bath were poor with none of their England candidates furthering their cause for inclusion in next week's game against Australia.
Bath scored three tries from Henry Thomas, Chris Cook and a penalty try award, with Henson kicking four penalties and three conversions. For the battling Irish, David Paice and James Short scored tries with Shane Geraghty kicking three penalties and two conversions.
Kyle Eastmond and Semesi Rokoduguni were both released by England to be included in the Bath line-up. Eastmond partnered fellow England hopeful, Jonathan Joseph in the centre whilst former Irish flanker, Matt Garvey, was selected for his first start of the season.
After last week's heavy defeat at Sale, Irish recalled Geraghty, Scott Steele and Conor Gilsenan to start but they suffered a big blow when skipper, George Skivington, was a late withdrawal with a minor shoulder injury. Dave Lyons replaced him with Geraghty taking over the captaincy.
Irish briefly overcame this setback by taking a third minute lead when Geraghty fired over an excellent long-range penalty before Henson responded with a similar effort for the visitors.
The first 15 minutes were poor as both sides bombarded each other with kicks, with no attempt being made to create anything. Not surprisingly, the next two scoring opportunities came from penalty kicks with both Geraghty and Henson missing their chance.
An Irish scrum infringement saw Henson kick Bath into the lead before Eastmond was penalised for not releasing. To compound his error he argued with the referee and conceded a further 10 metres, but despite making Geraghty's kick easier, it was still off target.
Bath almost scored the first try of the game when a clever kick ahead from Henson saw Joseph denied as the centre failed to scoop up the ball when only five metres away from the home line.
It was 6-3 to Bath at the end of the first quarter and it was they who were becoming increasingly dominant. Irish were conceding regularly penalties and went further behind when Henson kicked his third penalty after home prop, Halani Aulika was sin-binned for coming into the side of a ruck.
Bath suffered an injury blow when their prop, Nathan Catt, was led off with an arm injury to be replaced by Nick Auterac. Auterac joined the scrum and immediately helped his side secure a penalty try award which Henson converted.
Aulika returned from the bin in time to see Geraghty kick his second penalty leaving Irish trailing 16-6 at the interval.
Within two minutes of the restart, Bath looked to have sealed the game when Thomas brushed aside some terrible Irish tackling to run over 25 metres to score an excellent solo try which Henson converted.
However a spirited Irish responded with 10 points of their own when Paice forced his way over from close range for a try, which Geraghty converted before adding a penalty.
Irish had much the better of the third quarter as Bath made a number of unenforced errors but it was the visitors who picked up the next score when Henson kicked his fourth penalty after another scrummage offence.
When Irish conceded another scrum penalty, Bath declined a kickable penalty in favour of an attacking line-out but it proved to be the wrong option as it was easily defended by the hosts.
With 11 minutes remaining, Bath replacement, Cook, saw a gap to run 25 metres for the crucial try, which Henson converted.
Dominic Day was sin-binned for Bath which allowed Irish to stage a late rally with Short picking up their second try for Geraghty to convert to bring his tally to 13 points.