European Challenge Cup: Bath 26-13 London Irish - Will Stuart scores twice at The Rec

Anthony Watson
England international Anthony Watson caused the Irish defence plenty of problems with his direct running
European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final
Bath (19) 26
Tries: McNally, Stuart 2, Mercer Cons: Spencer 3
London Irish (10) 13
Try: Creevy Con: Jackson Pens: Jackson 2

Will Stuart scored twice as Bath defeated London Irish to progress to the semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup.

Exiles hooker Agustin Creevy opened the scoring after six minutes but the hosts hit back quickly to level through Josh McNally.

England prop Stuart then added two to put Bath 19-10 ahead at the break.

Paddy Jackson's penalty reduced the gap before Zach Mercer's try with 12 minutes remaining settled matters.

After weathering an early spell of pressure, Irish grew in confidence and were awarded a string of penalties which resulted in Argentina international Creevy going over from a line-out drive.

But when Exiles wing Ben Loader spilled the restart, the hosts wasted no time in responding through second row McNally, who was powered over from less than a metre out.

The hosts went ahead after 23 minutes through an excellent move which started with a scrum on their own line. Mercer carried 30 metres and offloaded to Taulupe Faletau, who kicked on and regained the ball, which was moved wide to allow Stuart to cross after a few more phases.

The England prop burrowed over for his second try just after the half-hour before Exiles fly-half Jackson slotted a penalty to trim the deficit to nine points at half-time.

Stuart almost grabbed his hat-trick after 54 minutes but was held up over the line, with the first points of the second half coming from Jackson's penalty 10 minutes later.

But Bath regrouped and Mercer's 68th-minute score proved enough to see the West Country side safely through to a European semi-final.

Bath head coach Neal Hatley told BBC Radio Bristol:

"I thought the power game was good and we probably missed one or two so I'm really pleased with the effort and also pleased with some of the ambition that was shown.

"We talked a lot about discipline in the week, we have talked about it quite a lot over the season with the way the games are being refereed, so we were a lot better defensively and discipline plays a huge role in that.

"I thought when we got close to the line our work from seven or eight metres was exceptional. We were patient and the work to get us into those positions was also good.

"We're two games away from hopefully winning something and it's great recognition for how hard the boys have worked in training."

Exiles director of rugby Declan Kidney:

"The little things just cost us a lot tonight, which happens in knockout rugby.

"We had an honest go at the competition, and it has been a great experience for our players."

Bath: Watson; Cokanasiga, Joseph, Redpath, McConnochie; Bailey, Spencer; Obano, Walker, Stuart, McNally, Ewels (capt), Faletau, Bayliss, Mercer.

Replacements: Du Toit, Schoeman, Thomas, Williams, Reid, Chudley, Clark, Gray.

London Irish: Parton; Loader, Brophy Clews, Hepetema, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Phipps; Gigena, Creevy, Chawatama, Nott, Simmons, Rogerson (capt), Cowan, Tuisue.

Replacements: Cornish, Elrington, Hoskins, Munga, Donnell, O'Brien, Meehan, Stokes.

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ire).

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