|Bath (17) 34|
|Tries: Spencer, Dunn 2, Joseph, Walker Cons: Preistland 3 Pens: Preistland|
|London Irish (7) 17|
|Tries: Rona, Cornish Cons: Jackson 2 Pens: Jackson|
Bath moved up to fourth in the Premiership after the restart with a first win since February, beating London Irish at an eerily quiet Rec.
Two Tom Dunn tries and another from debutant Ben Spencer gave Bath control but Curtis Rona's score put the Exiles on the board just before the break.
Both sides scored from the tee, before Jonathan Joseph sealed a bonus point with a spectacular dive at the corner.
Jack Walker's try sealed it, despite Matt Cornish's consolation for Irish.
There were signs of rustiness and fatigue as the game progressed, with some uncharacteristic errors, but Bath did enough to ensure skipper Charlie Ewels' 100th appearance was celebrated with maximum points.
This post-restart opener was played before empty stands, but the muted atmosphere did little to quell the entertainment in a lively encounter.
In keeping with the Premiership Rugby against Racism campaign, Bath formed a circle as Semesa Rokoduguni saluted, while Irish players took a knee.
There was also a minute's silence to recognise the work of the NHS and pay tribute to those who have lost their lives during the pandemic.
Spencer on the mark for Bath
England international Spencer was a shining light for the Blue, Black and Whites, combining smartly with Wales stand-off Priestland and offering a real threat around the ruck with his buzzy style.
The former Sarries half-back poached Rona's round-the-corner offload with Irish threatening to score an intercept try from distance, an ample reward for his endeavours.
Such cunning and brains was more than matched by Bath's brawn, as Irish struggled to contain the avalanche of rolling mauls which backpedalled their defence throughout.
Three times their muscular pack surged over to score from 'catch-and-drives', with hookers at the heart of each of them - twice through England hopeful Dunn and then again through Walker.
They largely controlled the set-piece, physically bossing scrums and stealing line-out ball to delight director of rugby Stuart Hooper and in particular new head coach Neil Hatley - who is a specialist in that field.
New era, same result for Exiles
This loss, their third in a row, leaves Declan Kidney's side with an unflattering defensive record, as just 43 points have been scored in those losses with 109 in reply.
They failed to contain the runaway Bath forwards and were limited in their opportunities at the other end.
The penalty count hurt the Exiles all too often, with ruck infringements costing them attacking positions and putting pressure on in defence at the other end of the field.
Rona limped off early in the second-half in a bruising game for Irish who had already lost Matt Rodgerson to a knock.
On a positive note Irish enjoyed equally snappy service from former Wallaby Nick Phipps at the base of the ruck and there were signs of the potential within the squad - such as when Rona squeezed in off quick-ball and exploited numbers on the right and Cornish bludgeoned through late on as they took the Bath blueprint to maul their way to the line.
They also aimed up physically in the second 40, with some savage hits from Motu Matu'u and Sekope Kepu a sign of their intent, but were unable to claw back the deficit.
Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper:
(On Ben Spencer debut) "He had a quality debut and showed what he brings to the game, especially the control and accuracy on his box kicks.
"All those things, alongside the standards he demands from the guys around him. I thought they raised their game today around that.
"I don't like the way we let them score at the back end of both halves. We've got to sharpen up there. We've got to be cleaner with our discipline in those periods when a team gets a bit of momentum against you."
London Irish boss Declan Kidney:
"We played a lot of good football but that never wins you matches. You've got to be able to do the basics as well.
"One of the things we need to improve on is timing and that will come with practice and more matches. We just need to work harder in those areas to get things right.
"We'll be looking to referees to do what they say they are going to do and clear the ball to open the game up. There were one or two times too where our ball presentation could have been a bit better."
Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Matavesi, McConnochie; Priestland, Spencer; Boyce, Dunn, Stuart, McNally, Ewels (c), Mercer, Underhill, Faletau.
Replacements: Walker, Obano, Judge, Stooke, Bayliss, Chudley, Redpath, De Glanville
London Irish: Parton; Loader, Rona, Hepetema, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Phipps; Elrington, Matu'u, Kepu, Donnell, Nott, Rogerson, O'Brien, Tuisue
Replacements: Cornish, Goodrick-Clarke, Hoskins, De Chaves, Cowan, Meehan, Brophy Clews, Williams