Bath (17) 40
- Try: Penalty try, Abendanon, Catt, Perenise
- Cons: Heathcote 4
- Pens: Heathcote 3, Donald
London Irish (9) 16
- Try: Moates
- Con: Humphreys
- Pens: Homer 3
Bath ran in two tries in each half as they beat London Irish to earn a second home Premiership win in eight days.
After two early Tom Homer penalties, Bath only had a Stephen Donald penalty of their own on the board before two tries in six first-half minutes.
Nick Abendanon's effort followed a penalty try, before Homer's third kick narrowed the gap to 17-9 at the break.
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith
“I've been in the game for 40 years and I've never seen a penalty count go above 20 before. There's three yellow cards thrown in there and, with the penalty try, that's a full house ”
But, after Jack Moates pulled one back, Irish were finished off by late tries from Nathan Catt and Anthony Perenise.
Replacement fly-half Tom Heathcote converted all four tries, also kicking two penalties.
The break in the Six Nations programme allowed Bath to bring back their two international props, Wales' Paul James and England's Davey Wilson, who had both been restricted to outings from the bench in recent weeks.
But victory came at a cost, as New Zealand international fly-half Donald appears to have popped a rib cartilage and could be out for four weeks or more, while captain Francois Louw is to have a hip injury assessed.
Bath's bonus-point victory made it six wins from as many games in all competitions to leapfrog them above Exeter to seventh in the Premiership table.
It was quite a comedown for the Exiles after their victory over Saracens last weekend, but they were undermined by a penalty count of 18-5 - and three yellow cards, for winger Topsy Ojo. full-back Homer and replacement back row forward Jon Fisher.
- Bath are now unbeaten in their last six matches, since going down 29-15 at Wasps in the Premiership on 6 January.
The only bright moment for the visitors was a thrilling breakaway try by replacement scrum-half Moates as the Exiles suffered a defeat which leaves them still right in the relegation dogfight.
Bath's penalty try came on the half hour when Ojo again tackled fellow winger Tom Biggs by the neck, for which he also collected his side's first yellow card.
Then, just six minutes later, the home side struck again when Heathcote attacked going right and his perfectly-flighted pass gave Abendanon just enough space to slide over.
Bath wrapped up victory on 76 minutes when Catt forced his way over, before Perenise's try in the final play of the game to earn the home side's bonus point - and an improved chance of a Heineken Cup place next season.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Bath head coach Gary Gold:
"I'm really keen to emphasise that I don't want us to get ahead of ourselves. We're getting some things right, but it wasn't a great first-half performance.
"The basics are there and the forwards are setting a platform. But it was a very good Irish team and we had to bring our 'A' game to beat them in the end.
"They have a very good backline and we had a lapse of concentration at one point.
"These games are not won at 14 points up and we have to be hard on ourselves to put teams to bed."
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith:
"You saw our fighting qualities. There wouldn't be many sides give away 23 penalties and not cave in.
"I've been in the game for 40 years and I've never seen a penalty count go above 20 before. There's three yellow cards thrown in there and, with the penalty try, that's a full house.
"The referee obviously saw things a little differently to the way we did. But Bath deserved to win. They were too good for us up front.
"They're cock-a-hoop and they should be. But we're disappointed because, with 10 minutes to go, we're seven points adrift and we're leaving here with a bonus point."
Abendanon; Agulla, Banahan, Eastmond, Biggs; Donald, Stringer; James, Webber, Wilson; Day, Attwood; Louw, Fearns, Skirving.
Heathcote for Donald (21), Gilbert for Louw (27), Perenise for Wilson (65), Spencer for Day (65), Catt for James (73), Batty for Webber (73), Rokoduguni for Agulla (75).
Homer; Ojo, Armitage, Geraghty, Yarde; Humphreys, Phibbs; Lahiff, Lawson, Aulika; Skivington, Evans; Garvey, Sinclair, Treviranus.
Halavatau for Aulika (45), Moates for Phibbs (51), Mayhew for Lawson (51), Gibson for Sinclair (51), Fisher for Garvey (54), Yanuyanutawa for Lahiff (64), Shingler for Geraghty (78), Low for Evans (78).
David Rose (RFU).