Honours even at Welford Road

Bath Rugby started the New Year with a 27-27 draw at Welford Road, after old foes Leicester Tigers fought back to score in the last minute through Jamie Gibson. 

A bitterly cold but dry day saw both sides chasing wins to cement their place in the top four.

In a cagey first ten minutes, it was the home side who mounted the first real attack of the game. After patient build-up play, the Bath defence was finally stretched too far and winger Miles Benjamin crashed over in the corner. Owen Williams couldn't convert from a tricky angle to leave the score 5-0. Minutes later, Bath were pinged at the breakdown giving Williams an easy shot at goal. He made no mistake to take the score to 8-0.

From a line-out in their own half, Bath went on the attack after some quick hands through the backline, Nick Abendanon spotted a gap in the Tigers' defence, finding the flying Anthony Watson in support who broke through for the score. George Ford, returning to his former club for the first time, was on target with his first kick at goal. 8-7.

The visitors followed it up shortly after with another well worked team try. A jinking break from Kyle Eastmond in the centre split the Tigers defence, with Ford working hard in support to keep the move alive. The fly-half found Francois Louw who replicated his try scoring heroics from last season to acrobatically dive over the line. Ford again made no mistake with the conversion. 8-14.

Leicester hit straight back with a penalty after Bath infringed at the lineout, Williams adding the three points to keep his side's score ticking over.

A fast-paced first half was showing no sign of letting up and when Tigers were penalised for pulling down a maul on the half hour mark, Ford elected to have a shot at the posts, opening up a six point gap. 11-17.

Leicester enjoyed an attacking spell in the Bath 22 but after some big tackles it was the visitors who were awarded the penalty and the chance to clear their lines. However the home side were undeterred and with less than five minutes left of the half, Williams had another penalty opportunity. Having missed his previous effort, this time he found his mark to take the score to 14-17.

With the first half drawing to a close, it was the visitors who were to have the final say when a late tackle gave Ford another shot at goal from 45 metres out. Another clean strike saw the ball sailing through the posts, and meant Bath went in at the interval with a seven point lead.

Half-time score Leicester Tigers 14 - Bath Rugby 20

It was Leicester who started the second half the brightest and when Bath were pinged for wheeling a scrum, Williams found his range with a kick from distance to draw the Tigers closer. 17-20.

Bath's attacking intent was clear though when Ford was given the order to kick for the corner rather than at goal when the penalty was given. The drive resulting from the line-out five metres from the line couldn't quite go the distance as Anthony Perenise was held just short, but  a strong scrum pushed Bath tantalisingly close. The ball was recycled quickly across the field, and some quick hands found Jonathan Joseph within range. The centre powered towards the line, and stretched to score, despite the pressure from the tackling Tigers. After a quick check with the TMO, referee JP Doyle awarded the try and Ford was left with an easy conversion in front of the post, from which he made no mistake. 17-27.

As the game went into the last quarter, Tigers were pressing hard, and Bath were having to be resilient. A yellow card to Stuart Hooper saw the visitors go down to 14men,  but Leicester couldn't make the pressure count and conceded a penalty. Ford booted clear much to the temporary relief of the players and travelling Bath support.

Buoyed on by the home support, Leicester kept up the pressure and the man advantage eventually paid dividends with replacement Thomas Waldrom burrowing over from close range. Williams couldn't add the extras, so the score remained 22-27.

A nail-biting last ten minutes followed, as Tigers continued to attack, knowing that a try and conversion would seal the win. They hammered away at the tryline, and Bath’s brave defence eventually came undone with Gibson scoring in the corner. With the scores tied at 27 a piece, it was left to Williams to land the conversion. From a tricky angle he couldn't quite find the target leaving these two great rivals having to share the spoils.

Final score: Leicester Tigers 27 - Bath Rugby 27.

New to Bath Rugby?

Join Bath Rugby for:

  • Epic, elite entertainment
  • Passionate, family-friendly atmosphere
  • Email Previews & Post-match reports

Find out more or enter your email address to get started.