NEAL Hatley was full of praise for George Ford after the 21-year-old England fly-half produced an outstanding performance in Bath's 44-23 victory over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.
Ford kicked 24 points on his return from England duty and Bath scored four tries through Kyle Eastmond, Anthony Watson, David Wilson and Matt Garvey to secure a bonus point and consolidate their position in the Aviva Premiership's top four.
Topsy Ojo and Chris Hala'ufia both crossed for London Irish with James O'Connor and Shane Geraghty adding the rest of the points from the tee.
However, it was not enough as London Irish lost just their second St Patrick's Day game in six years.
Hatley emphasised the importance of picking up five points away from home as the season reaches the finishing straight, and hopes Bath - currently sitting third in the table - will take the momentum into their clash with fifth-placed Sale on Friday night.
"George is unbelievably confident for a guy of his age," Bath's forwards coach said. "He's been fantastic since he came back [from international duty].
"Once or twice his defence has been questioned but I thought his defence was absolutely outstanding.
"He was harrying people and he was getting stuck into our blokes to make sure we kept building the pressure on them even when they had the ball.
"We've said we'd much prefer to be where we are with our noises in front but the five points are important as it starts to stretch open that gap.
"We need to take this momentum into Sale on Friday. They're probably one of the most underrated sides in the Premiership - they've got fantastic set-piece, a very good drive, a very good scrum - and when they find form they are a formidable side."
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith felt the turning point in the game was the decision to award Watson's try in the 56th minute.
There appeared to be crossing in the build-up to the try but, after consulting with his TMO, referee Greg Garner let the decision stand.
Smith disagreed with the decision but says his side need to learn to deal with adversity better.
He said: "Emotionally it took a lot out of us because it turned a very tight four point difference into an 11-point difference.
"My personal view is that it wasn't a try. A lot of teams in the league are using running interference - coaches call it running traffic - and when you get away with it it's all well and good.
"I thought there were a couple of players involved in that blocking try and I don't think I was the only person in the stadium with that view.
"It was a turning point in the game but it wasn't the whole game. It was up to us how we decided to respond to that adversity and for the next five minutes we were still focused on that.
"It's an emotional game and, playing in front of a full house, our boys were keyed up.
"Sporting life is not always fair and we needed to respond better to that event and we didn't."
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