Bath Rugby suffered a narrow 16-17 defeat o Leicester Tigers in a tense game under the lights at the Recreation Ground.
The game started at a frantic pace with both sides attacking hard and fast, making the most of the dry conditions, but Bath’s Tom Biggs and Leicester’s Horacio Agulla were unable to capitalise on early kicks through.
The first points went to the visitors after Sam Vesty, having taking a hanging kick well, was penalised for holding on. England Under 20's fly-half George Ford slotted an easy three points. 0-3.
A superbly placed kick by Ford put Bath into defensive mode on their own five metre. At the worst possible minute, the usually reliable line out was misjudged resulting in Tigers lock Graham Kitchener pouncing on the ball to score an easy try. 0-8.
Bath responded well with a well organised restart, taking the initiative and attacking hard at the Leicester 22. With the pressure on, Leicester infringed allowing England's other Under 20's fly half, Tom Heathcote, to add Bath's first points. 3-8.
Bath's line out was back to full throttle and fed scrum half Michael Claassens who's slick pass found a flying Matt Carraro who drew the defender and released Biggs. Snagged just shy of the line, quick recycling fed the forwards who smashed away at the fringes, drawing in the Leicester defence. With numbers wide, Olly Barkley shifted the ball wide with a superb miss pass to find a waiting Lee Mears who scored just shy of the touch line. Heathcote struck a fantastic conversion to take Bath ahead by two points. 10-8.
The Blue, Black and Whites looked to be taking the game to the Tigers, with some confident passing resulting in Dave Attwood making a searing break up field. With the half time whistle blown, Bath ended the half looking the more dangerous of the two sides with Leicester’s defence being tested as Bath's attacking flare looked excitingly similar to that of the week before.
The second half also started with great tempo, Bath being the side to re-start the quickest with an excellent handful of phases, coming within inches of scoring another try if it was not for some smart defence by Ford. It was Ford that took his side back in front with another successful penalty after a collapsed scrum. However, Bath's counter attacking abilities were on display as Biggs carved his way towards the try line forcing Leicester offside and enabling Heathcote to slot a stunning penalty of his own to recapture the lead. 13-11.
Ford added another three points as Bath were punished for indiscipline again minutes later taking the scores to 13-14 with 25 minutes remaining. As one team gave a penalty away so did the other and the Tigers, under the cosh 15 metres in front of their try line, came offside as Bath looked for the quick ball. Heathcote added the simple penalty to edge Bath back in front once more. 16-14.
Leicester looked to be soaking up the pressure from the home side, but with every clearance kick, was a waiting Bath player. Matt Banahan took the kick and offloaded to replacement Jack Cuthbert on the short line. The Scottish fullback carved up the pitch, saw his supporting players out wide and chipped onwards creating a dash to claim the ball. Unfortunately for Bath the Leicester defender claimed the ball and remained strong to allow the Tigers to clear their lines once more.
A scrum on the 70th minute was the focus of a frustrated Bath side and crowd as the referee, who initially awarded Bath a penalty at the scrum, changed his mind and awarded Leicester the penalty. Ford stepped up and slotted a hard conversion under pressure. 16-17.
The pressure was then on his opposite number, as after another great counter from Banahan, the supporting player was tackled without the ball providing Heathcote with a long range chance at goal. Despite the good strike, the ball drifted just wide.
The final few minutes were full of drama as the seconds ticked away. A try saving tackle from Cuthbert, great hands from the Bath backs and a desperate forward defence unfortunately came up short against a determined and defensively strong Leicester outfit.