Francois Louw's late try clinched a dramatic bonus point win for Bath Rugby over old rivals Leicester Tigers at the Recreation Ground this afternoon, 27-26.
Encounters between Bath and Leicester always have an extra bit of spice, and today's clash – the last game of the season at the Rec – was no different.
Toby Flood opened the scoring within four minutes after Bath were penalised in front of the posts, but Stephen Donald couldn't take the opportunity to level the scores when presented with the chance, after a huge hit from Ben Williams forced the error from Leicester.
However, first Donald and then the rampaging Rob Webber broke through the Tigers's defence, allowing Simon Taylor to power over the line from short range. Ollie Devoto added the extras, giving Bath the lead. 7-3.
In a see-sawing, end-to-end first-half, it wasn't long before the lead changed hands again, and the visitors had their noses back in front. A penalty allowed Flood to kick into the 22, and after the successful lineout, Tom Croft capitalised on a gap in the Bath defence to punch through and go over. Flood made no mistake with the easy conversion. 7-10.
Tigers kept looking to extend their lead, working at the Bath defence, but as Mathew Tait looked to pass out wide, Semesa Rokoduguni picked it off immaculately and raced away to score. Referee Tim Wigglesworth went to the TMO to double check, but it was a simple decision and the try was awarded. 12-10.
Flood added another three, taking Tigers back into the lead, before Ben Youngs stretched the lead further. The England scrum-half took a quick tap penalty and sprinted away 80m to cross the white-wash. His England colleague added the conversion from the tee. 12-20.
Bath weren't giving in though, with some big hits and strong work at the set-piece keeping the pressure on the visitors.
It looked as if Matt Smith had given Tigers another try, only for the TMO to rule it out after a forward pass from Tait was seen in the build-up.
More power at the scrum from Bath followed, and the game continued at a break-neck pace. The pack won the penalty, Donald sent it to touch, and the resulting lineout was won. A huge driving maul came from the home forwards before the ball was spun back to Donald. The Kiwi spotted Agulla out wide, and floated an exquisite cross-field kick over to the winger. The Argentinian stepped former teammate Tait and rounded the corner to score. With the final kick of the half, Donald nailed the conversion, making it a one point game at the break.
Half-time score: Bath Rugby 19 – Leicester Tigers 20.
Both sides came out firing in the second-half, picking up where they had left off.
Flood kept the Leicester scoreboard ticking over with two further penalties, before replacement Tom Heathcote, on for the impressive Williams, had an immediate impact, getting Bath back within four points with a penalty of his own. 22-26.
With 20 minutes to go, Bath patiently started applying the pressure to Tigers, as both sides continued to run the ball and test the opposition defence.
A sublime kick ahead from Kyle Eastmond followed by a stolen lineout saw Rokoduguni nearly go over, only for the Fijian to slip five metres out.
Another penalty attempt from Heathcote ricocheted back off the post, but the home side kept up the pressure, and five minutes later it proved too much for Leicester.
Replacement Anthony Perenise stole the ball on the ground and bulldozed his way through the Tigers's defence, before offloading to Francois Louw on his shoulder. The dynamic flanker charged away and swallow dived over the try-line to secure the bonus point try. Heathcote's conversion attempt from the touchline drifted just wide, to make it a nervous last seven minutes for the Rec faithful.
As the game drew to a close, Bath remained vigilant and disciplined in their defence, frustrating Leicester as they looked for a final penalty. Aviva Man of the Match Louw secured the ball one final time, and it was just left for Donald to kick the ball out to end the game to the delight of a jubilant capacity crowd at the Rec.
Final score: Bath Rugby 27 – Leicester Tigers 26.