Bath in 13-man Tiger feat

As the players ran on to the field, the rain began to fall and we were reminded of last season's 6-all draw in a deluge at the Rec. Scoring was not going to be easy and the side which played the conditions more intelligently was the one which would win.

Bath fumbled the first kick-off, setting the tone for the game; handling errors and turnovers were going to be the order of the day.

Leicester settled into the game first. Keeping the ball tight and using the rolling maul to good effect, they moved into a 6-0 lead after the first quarter with two successful Andy Goode penalties.

After 22 minutes, Bath had their first opportunity to put their opponents under pressure as they, too, began to use the rolling maul. As maul turned into ruck, Louis Deacon found himself interfering in an offside position and Chris Malone kicked a simple penalty to reduce the deficit to 6-3.

Another Bath restart error immediately handed the initiative back to Leicester, who soon had the home team on the back foot in their own 22. A collapsed scrum by Bath gave Goode the chance of 3 more easy points.

Inexplicably, given the conditions and the adequate defensive cover, Goode instead opted for the crossfield kick to the right hand corner flag. It fell well short of Leon Lloyd, the intended recipient, and into the hands of Michael Stephenson, who called for the "Mark" and the immediate danger passed.

Somewhat against the run of play it was Bath who scored next, on the half hour, to level the scores. Malone neatly slotted the penalty for another infringement at the breakdown; Julian White the culprit on this occasion.

Bath's failings at the restart were again evident as they turned over possession from Goode's drop kick. This time they were to be punished more severely. Neat work from Ollie Smith, Sam Vesty and Geordan Murphy down the Leicester left ended with Vesty being held up over the line by a desperate Bath defence.

The reprieve was short lived as Leicester used the position to give the forwards a platform to drive towards the try line. Bath infringed to stop the Tigers' gaining momentum but referee Chris White played a good advantage, allowing Goode to float a long pass out to Lloyd, who had the simple task of falling over the try-line with Bath's defence having been sucked infield. An excellent touchline conversion from Goode extended the Tigers' lead to 13-6.

Bath regrouped and, just before half time, narrowed the deficit.

Bath won a line-out just in their opponents' half and as the ball came out along the line, it seemed inevitable that the move would peter out as the Tigers' defence seemed to drift comfortably in tandem with the ball. Andy Higgins took the ball into a two-man tackle but managed to keep on his feet and somehow wriggle free. On he went; 5 metres then 10 and, with the cavalry arriving to help him on his way, he was finally brought down 10 metres from the Tigers' line. The forwards drove the ball to within a couple of metres of the line before Lewis Moody, like a political party being offered a loan in General Election year, couldn't help himself by picking the ball out of the back of the ruck from an offside position right in front of Chris White's nose. Malone scored the simple penalty to make it 13-9 and Moody was given a yellow card and asked to keep the 4th Official's seat dry for him for 10 minutes.

The last meaningful act of the first half was another successful Goode penalty; Gareth Delve being adjudged to have not allowed the tackled player to release the ball before trying to play it himself.

The half-time whistle went with Leicester just about deserving their 16-9 lead, having been the team who had better kept control of the ball in the difficult conditions.

The second half showed plenty of endeavour from, but little reward for, either side as both struggled to gain any continuity or momentum.

Leicester should have put the game out of reach when they squandered a two-man overlap. Fortunately for Bath, and unfortunately for Leicester, the critical pass asked too much of second row Louis Deacon, who found himself acting as left winger, and the ball spilled forward with the try line in sight.

Bath introduced 6 of their 7 replacements in the last 20 minutes as they attempted to mix things up a bit. It did have some success; shortly after the introduction of Fau Filise and Peter Short, Bath won a scrum against the head leading to their best period of continuity of the game. Forwards and Backs worked well together to keep possession and drive towards the Tigers' line. With Leicester's defence stretched, it looked as though Bath might create an overlap on the right wing, but Duncan Bell couldn't gather the pass and the ball went forward. There was no-one in the ground more disappointed than Duncan - who says professional sportsman don't care?

In fact, the ground clock had passed the regulation 40 minutes before Leicester put a win out of Bath's reach. Given the conditions, it was perhaps appropriate (or should that be "inevitable"?) that it was a penalty for collapsing a rolling maul that gave Goode the opportunity to extend the lead to 10 points with 7 minutes still remaining on the official "countdown" clock; an opportunity he took to his, and his team-mates, great pleasure. Leicester 19 Bath 9.

There was enough time for Malone to kick a bonus point-earning penalty and for Bath to make a final assault on the Leicester line to try and snatch a draw.

With the countdown clock showing zero, Leon Lloyd's seemingly deliberate palming of the ball into touch on the last play of the game went unpunished by referee Chris White who blew for full-time instead.

But what would Bath v Leicester games be without a bit of controversy?

At least we only have a week before we gain revenge!

Bath: Penalties - Malone (4)
Leicester: Try - Lloyd, Conversion - Goode, Penalties - Goode (4)

Bath Rugby: Stephenson (Abendanon 75), Finau, Higgins, Maddock, Bory, Malone, Walshe (Williams 75); Flatman (Filise 62), Mears (Dixon 75), Bell, Borthwick, Grewcock (Short 62), Beattie, Lipman (Feaunati 78), Delve.

Att: 10, 600

Ref: Chris White

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