This was a battle borne from an age old rivalry between these two clubs and it only seemed fitting that Bath would face their old adversaries in the Guinness Premiership semi final. As they faced their fifth challenge for victory against the Tigers, this match was one of vengeance.
As is tradition when these two teams clash on the pitch, the game was an instantly nail-biting encounter that gave plenty of action at both ends of the park. However, whilst there were heartstopping moments where it looked as though early points would be won, the game reached its 16th minute before any numbers appeared on the scoreboard.
It was the Tigers who drew first blood. Good interplay between Julien Dupuy, Sam Vesty and Tigers captain Geordan Murphy gave their loosehead prop, Marcus Ayerza the opportunity to burst over the line. However, a forward pass in the action prevented the hosts from taking the early lead and, thankfully for Bath Rugby, a penalty kick taken by Dupuy moments later failed to get over the sticks either. Whilst the intensity was high, no points were scored in the opening 10 minutes.
But the numbers crunched in favour of the Tigers after having battled hard together to get inside Bath's territory, Dupuy broke through the Bath defence inside their 22 and Dan Hipkiss finished the move by skirting behind the posts and planting the ball well over the try line. His try-scoring comrade Dupuy ensured that Tigers were awarded the seven at 16 minutes with a successful conversion.
It looked as though the Tigers were going to extend their lead four minutes later as Johne Murphy made a break down the wing followed on his heels by Bath's Most Improved Player of the season, Shontayne Hape. Hape managed to just get to the ball and put his own weight on it as the winger came crashing down on top of him. He may have celebrated the try, but the score was not his to enjoy.
As the match entered its remaining few minutes of the first half the Tigers has managed to gain 65% of possession which left Bath with the challenge to get some points of their own before the break. But it was Leicester who notched up the points before the half-time whistle after a good clearance kick from Ryan Davis sent the ball outside of his 22, but full-back Murphy collected and sprinted back towards inside Bath's territory where a strong drive cleared the path for Vesty. This initial attempt did not reward the number 10 with five points, but two minutes later a pass from the back of a scrum handed Vesty back the ball to ensure that this time, the try was a success. With Dupuy's conversion, the hosts led 14-0 as the whistle blew for the interval.
With a challenging points deficit to contend with upon their return onto the pitch, Bath Rugby demonstrated their resilience this season once again after some Hape and Davis made up good ground towards their opponents territory. As Davis kicked to the corner after the second of two offence for Leicester, number 8 Stuart Hooper blasted his way through their defence for captain Michael Claassens to retrieve the ball from the ruck. The South African darted around the hosts and soared over the line for Bath's first try at 44 minutes. Davis missed the conversion.
The increased pace from Bath did not hold back the Tigers for long though and just five minutes later Dupuy was able to put his boot back into action for a penalty kick that took his team to a 17-5 point lead.
However, Bath did not waste time to respond again and a line out on the Tigers 22 metre line gave Hooper the chance to break away, off load to Davis who found hooker Lee Mears to make a quick dash towards the line. With a pass on his right to the awaiting hands of the number 8, Hooper crashed over the line and awarded Bath with another five points. As the ball fell wide of the posts at the conversion, Bath were forced to be contented with 10 points instead of 12 after 57 minutes.
Having endured a 10 minute stalemate with neither team able to make an impacting break through each others defence, Leicester were the team to finally make a break and it was in the form of Johne Murphy. The winger shot down the flank and whilst he tripped during his sprint, replacement Lewis Moody finished what his team- mate had started, collecting the ball and lunging over the white line for a further five points taking Tigers, with a conversion, up to 24 to 10.
Bath may have battled to the very last, but the win was too far for them to grasp and their Guinness Premiership title hopes ended with the full-time whistle...for this season. anyway
15. Geordan Murphy, 14. Scott Hamilton, 13. Ayoola Erinle, 12. Dan Hipkiss, 11. Johne Murphy, 10. Sam Vesty, 9. Julien Dupuy, 1. Marcus Ayerza, 2. George Chuter, 3. Martin Castrogiovanni, 4. Tom Croft, 5. Ben Kay, 6. Craig Newby, 7. Ben Woods, 8. Jordan Crane
16. Benjamin Kayser, 17. Julian White, 18. Marco Wentzel, 19. Lewis Moody, 20. Harry Ellis, 21. Matt Smith, 22. Tom Varndell
15. Nick Abendanon, 14. Joe Maddock, 13. Alex Crockett, 12. Shontayne Hape, 11. Matt Banahan, 10. Ryan Davis, 9. Michael Claassens (c), 1. David Flatman, 2. Lee Mears, 3. Duncan Bell, 4. Justin Harrison, 5. Peter Short, 6. Andy Beattie, 7. James Scaysbrook, 8. Stuart Hooper
16. Pieter Dixon, 17. David Barnes, 18. Paulica Ion, 19. Jonny Faamatuainu, 20. Scott Bemand, 21. Shaun Berne, 22. Andrew Higgins