Bath Rugby tonight earned an LV= Cup home semi-final in some style after seeing off Leicester Tigers 17-35 at Welford Road.
Bath set out their stall in the first minute, chasing their kick-off aggressively, Tigers coughing up a penalty as they came in at the ruck from the side. Henson stepped up to punish the home side’s indiscretion with a three-pointer. 0-3.
Inside those first ten minutes, Tigers struck back when, following an attacking lineout in Bath’s 22, Argetinean openside Pablo Matera broke away from the maul to score under the posts. Fly-half Owen Williams converted, and Tigers led 7-3.
Ten minutes later, in the 18th minute, former Samoa Sevens star Alafoti Fa’osaliva found himself with little room on the wing. The openside put in a last-second grubber kick from 25m out. His pace was such that Tigers had little time to react and, before they knew it, Fa’osaliva had scored. The difficult conversion was missed by Henson, but Bath now had the upper hand by a single point. 7-8.
It took Tigers only four minutes to respond. In the wet conditions, Williams had been put up some testing high balls on numerous occasions. Bath failed to gather this one sufficiently, and Leicester fullback Blaine Scully kicked the loose ball through to score his team’s second try. With Williams converting the try, it was 14-8 to the home side.
Bath’s battling scrum enabled them to draw closer only two minutes after Scully’s try, when they were given a penalty which Henson promptly punted without hesitation to make it 14-11.
With just over half an hour gone, Tigers successfully kicked a penalty after Bath were deemed to have collapsed the scrum, extending their lead to 17-11.
With minutes remaining in the first half, Bath were desperate to finish it on a high. Tom Biggs received the ball out wide just inside Tigers’ half, interlinking well with Matt Banahan, who threw a basketball pass to the oncoming Leroy Houston. The number eight came within a whisker of scoring himself, but Stringer quickly recycled the ball out wide for Banahan to finish the move he’d helped create. Henson converted, and Bath saw out the first half 17-18.
Half time: Leicester Tigers 17 – Bath Rugby 18
The opening to the second half was a tense affair, with the aerial battle to the fore – both sides daring the other to run the ball in the pouring rain. 13 minutes on, it was Bath who profited first from playing it tight, their scrum winning them a penalty which Henson saw home. 17-21.
Tigers made a costly error near the hour mark, knocking the ball on from their lineout on their own 5m line. Bath’s forwards marched patiently forward, before unleashing replacement number eight Carl Fearns, whose yards gained enabled Stringer to put over Ollie Devoto from short distance. Henson converted. 17-28.
Fearns was soon rewarded for the damage he’d wrought in the loose. Ten minutes from time, Bath’s pack had positioned themselves well in the Tigers’ 22, and from their destructive maul emerged Fearns, who strolled over to score Bath’s fifth and final try. The on-form Henson converted once more. 17-35.
Leicester hammered away at Bath in the final ten minutes of the match, but came up against a determined and stubborn defence, which eventually saw referee Wayne Barnes award the visitors the penalty which finished the match.
Final score: Leicester Tigers 17 – Bath Rugby 35