Smith hails 'brave and gallant' Exiles
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith praised the resilience of his men, two of whom had barely set foot in the club before being thrust into the heat of battle, in the 29-22 win over Bath at the Madejski Stadium.
The Exiles started the afternoon bottom of the Aviva Premiership, having lost all of three matches by over 40 points. But tries from Tongan prop Halani Aulika, on his debut, and centre Jonathan Joseph gave Irish the glory. Centre Steve Shingler added 19 points with five penalties and two conversions.
Bath's Olly Barkley also kicked five penalties and converted a try from wing Kyle Eastmond. Former England backs coach Smith said: "I felt our team were very brave and gallant. We had to fight a lot of adversity. Most people won't be aware but two of the guys who came on as replacements were not involved in the captain's run on Friday."
Smith added: "Alan Cotter flew in on Friday from Munster to join our squad and Jerry Yanuyanutawa flew in from Australia on Friday, so the team had to face a lot of adversity including a massive 8-2 penalty count in the second half and we had to defend our line as if our lives depended on it - and we did it.
"It is a good win and I think we can get a lot of momentum from this. We have to keep our feet on the ground and line up Worcester for Friday night.
"We had to stop the drive and we did that. The defence was outstanding and we showed we can break out and score but guys like Matt Garvey were huge in the pack and all the forwards played their part. We have stayed focussed. Sport is a great leveller and it is great to get out of the blocks. Yes, it is a relief but now we have to go and do it all again on Friday.
"I'm pleased for the players because if people looked only at the points on the table, they would think we have done nothing and achieved nothing so far this season. That is not an accurate reflection."
Bath head coach Gary Gold felt his side made the right decision in going for tries when they had the hosts on the rack after flanker Jamie Gibson was yellow-carded for a ruck offence.
Captain Stuart Hooper held his hand up to say it was his decision to go for tries, and said: "The rationale was that they just had a guy put in the sin-bin who was doing a lot of work in their defensive line-out. We felt we had them on the rack and felt we could have scored."
Gold said: "The balance in the first couple of weeks was there was a perception of criticism around the fact that we were kicking everything and we are a boring team. That is not what our intention is, though. We want to have that balance to back ourselves. They had a guy in the sin-bin and I back Stuart's decision 100 %."