Ben Spencer’s last-gasp conversion secured Bath Rugby a brilliant one-point win over old rivals Leicester Tigers in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership.
The scrum-half nailed a touchline kick with the clock seconds away from the 80-minute mark following Will Muir’s second try of the match.
Wing Muir had opened the scoring in the first period, but three George Ford penalties meant Leicester led at half-time.
Matias Moroni extended the Tigers’ advantage while Ford edged his side further ahead with another two tee-shots, one either side of replacement Miles Reid’s score.
Six points behind, Bath had the momentum going into the closing stages and Muir touched down on the stretch, presenting Spencer the opportunity to clinch the victory.
It was a bright start on a gloriously sunny afternoon for the Blue, Black and Whites at the Rec. Jack Walker, Cam Redpath and Josh Matavesi all made in-roads deep into Leicester territory, though the visitors were equally as physical on the gainline.
It was that up-front battle which thwarted any early score for Bath who produced some wonderful phases without the needed killer blow. Joe Cokanasiga’s power was used as he came in off his wing on a couple of occasions, but again Tigers were quick to prevent any chance to get in behind.
Leicester were rewarded for their defensive efforts when Ford slotted his first three of the day in a rare away jaunt into the Bath half. Punting back to Bath from the kick-off, BT Sport player of the match Zach Mercer carried a near 30 metres and combined with Matavesi whose Hollywood pass out the back door let Redpath stretch his legs.
Then it was Pol Rog Performance of the Match Will Stuart who find an opening and opted for a cute grubber in behind which turned the backs of those in Green, White and Red.
Patience was key for the hosts and they eventually got a deserved try, four minutes after Ford kicked a second penalty.
The forever electric Anthony Watson broke from the backfield and drove to within 10 metres. Controlling the tempo, the forwards picked around the fringes and Mercer found Muir in space with the returning wide man skipping in for his fourth dot down in his last three outings.
Tigers proved dangerous on the outside too. Kini Murimurivalu rolled inside like a steam train only to be denied by an expert Watson tackle and the following set they punched through a hole in the Bath line only to be denied by a forward pass. With advantage in tow, Ford clipped over to edge an attritional first 40.
The impetus remained with Leicester early in the second half and lovely handling released centre Moroni in the wide channel for a well-worked five points.
Taulupe Faletau’s superb read of a miss pass saw him intercept and sprint forward with Mercer in support, but a scrambling Leicester defence relieved the danger before Ford kept the scoreboard ticking over with another strike just shy of the hour.
Then a relentless 20-minute followed for Bath. Alex Gray and Redpath were lively in the midfield. Orlando Bailey showed some nice touches and Charlie Ewels led fantastically from the front.
It presented the opportunity for Reid to muscle over with 13 minutes remaining. Jacques du Toit’s tapped and barged to within a yard of the whitewash and homegrown flanker Reid scraped the line, backed by several in Blue, Black and White.
Bath kept believing and kept coming at the Tigers. They were made to work hard to claw back a six-point gap after Ford added his fifth penalty and their determination shone through.
The pack put relentless pressure in the tight and Spencer spotted Muir on the flank, found him with a pinpoint pass that didn’t look on and he went over on the stretch.
Bath celebrations were short, knowing the conversion was needed to win the game. There was no one calmer in the stadium than Spencer as he stepped up, left-footed and dissected the sticks to complete the turnaround.
15. Anthony Watson, 14. Joe Cokanasiga, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Cameron Redpath, 11. Will Muir, 10. Josh Matavesi, 9. Ben Spencer; 1. Beno Obano, 2. Jack Walker, 3. Will Stuart, 4. Josh McNally, 5. Charlie Ewels ©, 6. Taulupe Faletau, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Zach Mercer
Replacements: 16. Jacques du Toit, 17. Juan Schoeman, 18. Henry Thomas, 19. Mike Williams, 20. Miles Reid, 21. Will Chudley, 22. Orlando Bailey, 23. Alex Gray
15. Freddie Steward, 14. Harry Potter, 13. Matias Moroni, 12. Dan Kelly, 11. Kini Murimurivalu, 10. George Ford, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Tom Youngs ©, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Harry Wells, 5. Calum Green, 6. George Martin, 7. Tommy Reffell, 8. Jasper Wiese
Replacements: Charlie Clare, 17. Luan de Bruin, 18. Joe Heyes, 19. Tomas Lavanini, 20. Luke Wallace, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Johnny McPhillips, 23. Matt Scott
18 April 2021
Referee: Luke Pearce
Half Time score: 7-9
- Tries: Muir (19, 77), Reid (66)
- Conversions: Spencer (20, 66, 79)
- Tries: Moroni (43)
- Penalties: Ford (12, 15, 36, 57, 72)