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Bath Rugby player ratings from London Irish win: ‘At his world-class best’

Bath Rugby secured their place in the European Challenge Cup semi-final with a 26-13 victory over London Irish at The Rec on Friday night.

Stuart Hooper’s side went behind to Irish but headed into the break ahead with first half scores courtesy of Josh McNally and a brace from Will Stuart.

Paddy Jackson responded with two penalties, but after waiting thirty minutes Bath’s fourth score came with Zach Mercer driving over from close range.

Mercer’s score proved to be the final act of the game as Bath secured a semi-final place for the first time in four years.

Rugby reporter Sam Bytheway reports on Bath’s individual displays:

15. Anthony Watson – 8

Anthony Watson’s displaysd in recent weeks in the Blue, Black and White and with a rose on his chest are showing all the signs that he is back to his confident, world-class best.

The England full-back made a total of 61 metres, from just 7 carries but Watson didn’t just use his pace, he used power to break tackles and make yards in contact on a number of occasions.

If these performances keep up then more Lions jerseies can’t be far away.

14. Joe Cokanasiga – 7

After a tough start missing a sloppy high tackle on Agustin Creevy for London Irish’s try, Joe Cokanasiga grew into the game.

The winger carried hard despite having little ball and opportunity, but he looked dangerous when he did.

And after missing that early tackle, Cokanasiga didn’t miss another for the rest of the game.

13. Jonathan Joseph – 7

Like the rest of his back-line colleagues, Jonathan Joseph found attacking opportunities limited with the majority of Bath’s attacks coming through the forward pack.

Despite this, Joseph still looked a threat when he had an opportunity with some lovely footwork to step back against the grain and beat defenders while on other occasions he released glorious, zipped, arcing passes.

The thought of Joseph, Redpath and the soon to arrive Danny Cipriani linking up is certainly an exciting prospect.

It was a mixed day defensively, missing two tackles out of eight.

12. Cameron Redpath – 8

It wasn’t the return from injury Cam Redpath will have expected, with the Scottish international playing 50 minutes of his first game since his Scotland debut and Calcutta Cup win at fly-half.

Despite not shining as he usually does at 12, Redpath didn’t look fazed when asked to step up and he didn’t put a foot wrong while in the 10 shirt.

Redpath made strong attacking metres, was impressive in defence and he won his side two turnovers.

Overall a strong return to action for Redpath.

11. Ruaridh McConnochie – 6

A quiet and unassuming game from the England winner as he made just 23 metres in attack, making two tackles before he was replaced at half time with an apparent injury.

Sadly once again it was not a day for Bath’s wingers to stretch their legs with the home side sensibly opting to bludgeon the Exiles into submission with their superior pack.

10. Orlando Bailey – 6

Didn’t do much wrong during his short stint on the pitch and made a lovely break only to offload to a grateful chasing back London Irish defender, but Bailey’s thinking was correct – his support was just missing.

The young fly-half made four tackles, missing two before he failed an HIA and was replaced by Max Clark forcing a reshuffle in the backline.

When he does return to action it would be good to see the teenager take on a few more of a fly-half’s normal duties like kicking to touch and for goal to see where those elements of his game are at.

9. Ben Spencer – 8

With a different half-back for much of the game, it could of been difficult for Spencer to execute his game plan, but like Redpath he wasn’t fazed.

Spencer didn’t necessarily give his backs free-flowing ball, but he did push his forwards around the park to great success.

Part of a great scrum-half is linking the forwards and backs and putting both in the best positions to attack and Spencer managed that to a T.

He also took on all the kicking duties, landing three out of four going for the sticks.

It was another strong performance from the former Saracens man with England coaches in the stands taking notes once again.

8. Zach Mercer – 9

When you watch Zach Mercer, it is tough not to sit in awe as the backrow’s ability and skill level.

Mercer carried exceptionally well, both from close and long range, making 63 metres across the field and was rewarded with his late try.

Alongside his attacking metres made, Mercer showed outrageous skill, in particular with his first half offload to Taulupe Faletau which set in motion the action for Josh McNally’s opening touchdown for Bath.

Mercer was well deserved of his BT Man of the Match display, adding nine tackles to compete an all-round performance.

7. Josh Bayliss – 7

It was an outstanding attacking game from Josh Bayliss as the Bath backrow managed to make a total of ten tackles, without missing one, in just his 48 minute shift.

Bayliss also made six carries before he was replaced by Miles Reid 8 minutes into the second half.

The flanker showed a remarkable ability to make the best of a bad pass on Friday night, spinning out of a hospital pass at one point and gathering another pass when he was hit man and ball.

Offside at least once.

6. Taulupe Faletau – 8

My notes for Taulupe Faletau in the first half simply read “outrageous attacking threat” and I think that’s hard to argue against.

The Welsh backrow carried strong – with 38 metres made, tackled hard – not missing one, but also showed staggering levels of skills – including off the boot with Faletau producing an impressive chip and chase in the build-up to Will Stuart’s score.

If the Lions first test was tomorrow I think it is tough to find anyone who wouldn’t have Taulupe Faletau on that pitch.

5. Charlie Ewels – 7

On his return from suspension, captain Charlie Ewels produced a leader’s performance which helped drag his side to victory.

With the majority of his side’s efforts in both attack and defence coming from the forward pack, Ewels’ leadership made a big difference.

Ewels’ influence came primarily from his defence as the England second-row didn’t miss a tackle throughout, knocking back London Irish ball carriers on a regular basis to win the collision.

A nuisance to London Irish’s lineout as well with at least one steal.


4. Josh McNally – 7

Josh McNally was rewarded for his strong carrying performance with a first half when he drove over from short range.

Against his former club, McNally carried well and hard but also contributed defensively making five tackles without missing one.

3. Will Stuart – 9

It was an almost perfect display from the England prop as he was rewarded for showing his power and strength with two first half tries. He even could have had a hat-trick but was held up over the line after landing on Miles Reid trying to spin out of a tackle and dot down.

Stuart also had a successful, yet quiet day defensively as he failed to miss a tackle before he was replaced alongside his front row colleagues on 59 minutes.

On top in the scrum as well.

2. Jack Walker – 7

It was a defensively strong display from Jack Walker as the hooker made seven tackles without missing one during his time on the pitch.

Walker looked to push the Irish defensive line with carries and pick and goes, but his parting moments of the game were a knock on metres from the try-line and a penalty conceded which will of sent nerves down the backs of many.

1 Beno Obano – 7

Like the rest of the Bath front-row it was an astute defensive display from the centurion Obano.

Alongside not missing a tackle, Obano also was dominant and strong with ball-in hand making a number of destructive carries but he still showed the awareness and skill to look and then execute offloads.

The England international was also part of a scrum that certainly had the upper hand.

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16. Jaques du Toit (on for Walker 59’) – 6

17. Juan Schoeman (on for Obano 59’) – 7

18. Henry Thomas (on for Stuart 59’) – 7

19. Mike Williams (on for McNally 69’) – 6

20. Miles Reid (on for Bayliss 48’) – 7

21. Will Chudley (Unused) – N/A

22. Max Clark (on for Bailey 27’) – 7

23. Alex Gray (on for McConnochie 40’) – 7

Most of Bath’s subs that made the biggest influence came on earlier in the game with the trio of Max Clark, Alex Gray and Miles Reid all coming on before the 50th minute.

All three came on and gave a strong performance across the board, in particular Clark who played an unexpectedly long 50 minutes.

The replacement front row all came on at once, and were part of a Bath scrum that continued where the starters left off and gave their opposition a torrid time at scrum-time.

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