Matt Banahan hat-trick helps Bath Rugby claim Champions Cup spot

Matt Banahan scored a hat-trick
Matt Banahan scored a hat-trick

Bath Rugby 63-19 London Irish, Recreation Ground

Matt Banahan signed off his career with Bath with a hat-trick as he helped his team claim a place in the European Champions Cup following a 63-19 win over London Irish in the final round of the Aviva Premiership at Recreation Ground on Saturday.

The win had taken Bath to 56 points as they finished sixth in the table while London Irish will end their Premiership campaign with a 19th defeat from 22 matches and they will be replaced by Bristol in the top tier next season.

It took just two minutes for Bath to get their first points on the board as Taulupe Faletau crossed over and seven minutes later winger Cooper Vuna also touched down and Rhys Priestland's double conversion meant the home side raced to a 14-0 lead.

Bath suffered a setback when Matt Garvey was sin-binned in the 17th minute but London Irish could not quite capitalise on the advantage of having an extra man. Instead, Banahan (22'), James Wilson (31') and Elliott Stooke (40') scored further tries for Bath and with Priestland slotting the extras on all the three occasions, Bath headed into the break scoring 35 unanswered points.

Bath further upped the ante when Banahan and Wilson crashed past the line in the 51st and 56th minute respectively as they stretched the lead to 49 points. The visitors finally opened their account in the 59th minute when Josh McNally touched down but further tries Banahan (63') and Will Vaughan (71') took them to 63 points.

Even though Ben Loader and McNally scored a try apiece in the final seven minutes, London Irish were no match as they succumbed to a 63-19 defeat.

Bath director of rugby Todd Blackadder paid tributes to Banahan, who is set to move to Gloucester next season.

"The best way to end a career is on top. The way he played today was phenomenal and there's no better way to leave a club.

"It's a proud day for him and his family, for all he has given to Bath. The club is really proud of him, too."

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