Zach Mercer stars as Bath book their place in the Challenge Cup semis

Zach Mercer stars as Bath book their place in the Challenge Cup semis

Bath will have to wait until Sunday evening to find out who they will face in the Challenge Cup semi-finals having defeated London Irish 26-13 in the quarter-finals at the Rec on Friday.

Stuart Hooper's men came flying out the blocks from the first whistle of the game but were unable to capitalise thanks to some strong defence from the Exiles. Augustin Creevy was excellent for London Irish early on winning a penalty at the breakdown with his team under the pump and the Exiles worked their way upfield with the Los Pumas hooker dotting down from a driving maul in the sixth minute after an entertaining start to the game. Paddy Jackson converted to make it 7-0.

Bath were quick to respond as they won a penalty straight from the kick-off and went to the driving maul from the resulting lineout. The drive went to ground just of the line before Josh McNally drove over the line from close range. Ben Spencer levelled the scores. 

Bath hit the front in the 24th minute as Will Stuart finished off a wonderful flowing attack from Bath. Zach Mercer sped away from the base of the scrum and fended off a defender before getting the ball out to Taulupe Faletau. The Welsh no.8 brilliantly chipped over the top with his left peg and managed to beat Paddy Jackson to the ball and tap the ball backwards on the ground inside the 22. They took the ball through a few phases before the powerful tighthead scored the first of his two tries. Ben Spencer slotted the extras to make it 14-7.

Bath's flyhalf crisis may have got worse with Orlando Bailey leaving the pitch with a head knock and Cameron Redpath was forced to play out the remainder of the game from the 27th minute at flyhalf. Despite losing their pivot, Bath further extended their lead with Will Stuart scoring his second shortly after the half-hour mark. Man of the match Zach Mercer broke through the Exile defence and was dragged down just short but again his tighthead was there to finish off the chance. Spencer failed to add the extras as Bath led 19-7. Paddy Jackson made it 19-10 on the stroke of half time. 

The two sides traded attacking phases but neither could finish off their opportunities early on in the second half and it was Jackson who brought London Irish within six points after the hour mark. Bath were quick to hit back as Mercer finally got just reward for his performance with a try from close range. Ben Spencer converted to make it 26-13 and it would remain that way as Bath managed to seal out the victory despite prolonged periods of Exile attacks in their 22. 

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