Despite a full house of points from captain Felipe Contepomi, Leinster were robbed of a dream start to their Heineken Cup tenure at the RDS as Bath clung on for a 22-19 victory on Saturday.
HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 5: Saturday, October 22
Leinster 19 Bath 22, RDS (Att: 13,152)
Scorers: Leinster: Try: Felipe Contepomi; Con: Contepomi; Pens: Contepomi 3; Drop: Contepomi
Bath: Try: Andrew Beattie; Con: Olly Barkley; Pens: Barkley 4; Drop: Malone
Leinster's hopes of emerging from Pool 5 took a massive dent as Bath bravely held on for a precious away win at the sold-out Royal Dublin Society stadium.
Nine months ago, Leinster, under former coach Declan Kidney, earned a late smash-and-grab win at the Recreation Ground as they stung Bath for 14 points in the final ten minutes On Saturday evening there was no such reversal as John Connolly's men, defending a three-point lead, kept the home side's injury-hit backline at bay.
Stand-in skipper Contepomi was Leinster's only scorer, converting his own 12th-minute try and firing over three penalties and a drop goal in a talismanic display. But it was not enough as Bath's superior forwards laid the platform for kickers Olly Barkley and Chris Malone to post up 17 points between them.
Man-of-the-match Andrew Beattie was fortune to collect a cross-field kick from Malone and score the visitors' only try on 46 minutes, but Bath rode what luck came their way and Malone's monster drop goal on 71 minutes was enough to sneak them home.
It had all begun so well for Michael Cheika's Leinster. Their new home crowd, packed to the rafters by 13,152 expectant supporters, looked pristine and with Argentinean Contepomi pulling the strings in the opening stages, they raced clear into a 10-0 lead.
Fly half Contepomi racked up his full house of points by the eighteenth-minute. First, he watched gleefully as his third-minute drop goal soared down out of the Dublin sky and over the bar from 45 metres.
England centre Barkley pummelled his first shot off an upright five minutes later and both Martyn Wood and Lee Best had to act sharp to hold up Leinster scrum half Brian O'Riordan over the visitors' try line, moments later.
Leinster did not have long to way for what proved to be their only try - Bath's backline frailties were exposed on 12 minutes when Contepomi scooted over from Gordon D'Arcy's pass with Shane Horgan drifting out wide on a dummy run.
Contepomi's conversion was cancelled out by Barkley's first of four penalties and the visitors gradually settled down.
Bath's England locks Steve Borthwick and Danny Grewcock were on song at the set piece, robbing Cheika's side of any go-forward ball. A listless second quarter saw Barkley hit two penalties to Contepomi's one as Bath ominously trailed 13-9 at the break.
Both kickers missed shots either side of half-time, but Bath were celebrating a cheeky try on the restart as a quick penalty tap and high kick to the left corner saw Leinster asleep and flanker Beattie making full use of a fortunate bounce to score.
Barkley drove the conversion low and over for a 16-13 lead, and with Leinster hooker David Blaney having been sin-binned a minute early for a ruck offence, a priceless away win looked on.
And so it proved as a penalty from Barkley and Malone's lengthy drop goal, set up by a Beattie steal, secured the points for Bath. Girvan Dempsey and replacement Jonny Hepworth, who was making his debut in Leinster colours, were both swamped out for space when a late try looked on for Leinster, who could only manage two penalties from Contepomi in the second half.
The result marked Leinster's first defeat in a home Heineken Cup pool tie since January of last year.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Kieran Lewis, Gordon D'Arcy, Shane Horgan, Robert Kearney; Felipe Contepomi (capt), Brian O'Riordan; Reggie Corrigan, Brian Blaney, Emmett Byrne, Ben Gissing, Bryce Williams, Ciaran Potts, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements used: Bernard Jackman for Blaney, Brian O'Meara for O'Riordan, Malcolm O'Kelly for Gissing (all 59), Jonny Hepworth for Kearney (73). Not used: Des Dillon, Eoghan Hickey, Ronan McCormack.
BATH: Lee Best; David Bory, Thomas Cheeseman, Olly Barkley, Frikkie Welsh; Chris Malone, Martyn Wood; Matt Stevens, Lee Mears, Duncan Bell, Steve Borthwick (capt), Danny Grewcock, Andrew Beattie, James Scaysbrook, Isaac Feaunati.
Replacements used: Gareth Delve for Feaunati, Pieter Dixon for Mears (both 76), Salesi Finau for Bory (78). Not used: Christian Loader, James Hudson, Nick Walshe, Ryan Davis.
Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales); Sin-Bin: D Blaney (Leinster) (45 mins)