Match Summary – Leicester Tigers 48–27 Bath Rugby
Bath Rugby came away from Leicester Tigers with a try bonus but it was the reigning champions who earned a full five points in Round 19 of the Gallagher Premiership.
Matt Gallagher opened the scoring for the visitors but Harry Potter, Handré Pollard and Julián Montoya turned the match in Tigers’ favour.
A Ben Spencer penalty and a try from the Bath skipper reduced the deficit, however Leicester strengthened their half-time advantage through Hanro Liebenberg.
In the second half, Josh McNally punched his way to the line as the Blue, Black and White showed encouraging signs before being decimated by injuries.
Montoya added a second for his side and Harry Wells’ opportunistic effort put gloss on the scoreboard ahead of Fergus Lee-Warner’s consolation.
Head of Rugby Johann van Graan has made nine changes for Bath’s trip to Leicester – six in the forwards and three in the backs.
Tom Dunn and Will Stuart returned to the front row alongside Beno Obano – just their sixth start as a trio since the 2020 Premiership semi-final – and McNally linked up with GJ van Velze in the second row.
Lee-Warner and Jaco Coetzee were additions to the back row while Ruaridh McConnochie, Jonathan Joseph and Orlando Bailey joined the back division.
Tigers made two alterations to their starting XV with Tommy Reffell coming back in following Wales duty and Harry Simmons replacing Chris Ashton on the wing.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Harry Simmons, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Tom West, 2 Julián Montoya (c), 3 Joe Heyes, 4 George Martin, 5 Cameron Henderson, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Jasper Wiese
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Will Hurd, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Guy Porter
Bath Rugby: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer ©; 1 Beno Obano, 2 Tom Dunn, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Josh McNally, 5 GJ van Velze, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Jaco Coetzee
Impact players: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 D’Arcy Rae, 19 Miles Reid, 20 Alfie Barbeary, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Max Ojomoh, 23 Chris Cloete
The game was evenly poised for the opening 10 minutes as a battle of kick-tennis ensued in attempt for both teams to win territory.
Bath won on this occasion and as they gained field position, Cameron Redpath linked up with Gallagher on the left to send the wing over.
Tigers hit back five metres later. With a penalty advantage in hand, Pollard swept the ball to the right for a lively Potter to run in.
Discipline proved an issue for Bath in the first period close their line as a multitude of penalties saw Dunn and McNally sin binned. With Bath down to 13 men, Pollard and Montoya crossed the whitewash.
Spencer replied with a penalty, which Pollard responded to with three points of his own, before the Bath captain gathered a loose ball and skipped past Ben Youngs to slide in for his team’s second.
The half ended on a high for Leicester though as Liebenberg barged over for a home try bonus.
The start of the second half started in much better fashion for Bath. On for his debut, Alfie Barbeary carried superbly and it was his dummy run from a line-out that allowed McNally time to find a gap to dot down from close range.
But in quick succession, Bath lost Barbeary – after Coetzee had already gone off injured - Sam Underhill, Will Stuart and Ruaridh McConnochie to injury and thereafter, Leicester continued to build a score.
Pollard kicked a goal and then Mike Brown raced away from the Bath defence to set up a second try for Montoya on the wing. Tigers’ final five-pointer was an opportunistic one. A clearance kick deflected into Leicester hands and Wells benefitted with a simple dive next to posts.
Close to the end, Lee-Warner earned Bath a bonus point as he powered up the wing but it was too late for the visitors to mount what would have had to have been an impressive comeback.