Bath shrugged off their opening round defeat as they ran in four tries to claim a 22-6 Heineken Cup win over Aironi in Italy.
Bath shrugged off their opening round defeat as they ran in four tries to claim a 22-6 Heineken Cup win over Aironi.
The West Country side's victory at the Stadio Luigi Zaffanella ended their worst ever run of losses – four – on the road in Europe.
First-half tries from Matt Carraro, man-of-the-match Nick Abendanon and the eye-catching Tom Biggs, followed by a second-half touchdown from skipper Luke Watson, gave Bath the spoils. Olly Barkley slotted a solitary conversion.
Ex-Gloucester fly-half Ludovic Mercier kicked two penalties for the home side, who enjoyed more ball and territory then the scoreline suggested.
It was first blood to Bath in the 11th minute as the English side executed a glorious first-phase move. Quick ball off the top of a line-out on the halfway line was followed by a missed pass to Abendanon who drew his man and popped the ball to Biggs. The wing then collected his own perfectly weighted chip to touch down in the corner.
Barkley missed the touchline conversion and Mercier was quick to pull three points back when Bath were caught failing to roll away in the tackle.
The Italian side enjoyed the bulk of ball and possession, but a mix-up on their own 22 by Danwel Demas and Giulio Rubini gifted possession to Bath with a little over a quarter of the game gone. Bath kept things tight and blasted away around the fringes, wing Carraro eventually burrowing over.
Aironi's man mountain of a number eight, Nick Williams, burst through the Bath midfield soon after the restart, and only a thumping tackle from Abendanon stopped him from scoring. Indeed, it briefly stopped Williams from playing a part in proceedings, with medics escorting him off the pitch.
Bath grabbed their third try five minutes before the break. Abendanon was the recipient of another missed pass from Barkley, and a poor challenge by Mercier allowed him to surge into the Italians' half. Neat handling among the backs ensued and Abendanon finished off what he had started, touching down beneath the posts. Barkley made no mistake this time and Bath were 17-3 to the good.
The Aironi pack set up camp inches from the Bath try line shortly after the resumption. But with the forwards having done all the hard work their backs botched the job at the first attempt, a pass from Mercier drifting aimlessly between his centres.
The Italians finally turned their second half pressure into points in the 55th minute. Bath infringed at a ruck and Mercier stepped up to chip over an easy penalty goal.
Barkley surged through a chink in the Aironi midfield in the 65th minute as Bath chased the bonus point, but the supporting Biggs was penalised for not releasing.
But the try that clinched the extra point came with 10 minutes to go. Aironi wing Giulio Toniolatti was forced to take the ball into touch on his own five-metre line and the Bath pack then engineered an unstoppable driving maul from the resulting lineout, with Watson emerging from the heap of bodies with the ball.
Pen: Mercier 2
Tries: Biggs, Carraro, Abendanon, Watson
Aironi: 15 Danwel Demas, 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Rodd Penney, 12 Gilberto Pavan, 11 Giulio Rubini, 10 Ludovic Mercier, 9 Pablo Canavosio, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Andrea Benatti, 6 Jaco Erasmus, 5 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 4 Marco Bortolami, 3 Luca Redolfini, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements:16 Roberto Santamaria, 17 Ulises Gamboa, 18 Alberto De Marchi, 19 Carlo Del Fava, 20 Simone Favaro, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Matteo Pratichetti, 23 Riccardo Bocchino.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Tom Biggs, 13 Ben Williams, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Sam Vesty, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Luke Watson (c), 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 David Wilson, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 David Flatman, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Ignacio Fernandez-Lobbe, 20 Ben Skirving, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Matt Carraro, 23 Jack Cuthbert.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)