Bath Rugby held on to claim a losing bonus point at Welford Road this afternoon in a 17-12 defeat to Leicester Tigers.
The visitors started brightly, and when ex-Leicester man Horacio Agulla was blocked after making a neat little chip ahead, Stephen Donald had the chance to take an early lead. His kick was wide, however the New Zealand fly-half made amends on 14 minutes with a well worked try.
Lee Mears threw to the end of the line-out and found Francois Louw, who offloaded to Nick Abendanon. The full-back broke through, released Matt Banahan and found Donald. The fly-half stepped around the Tigers defence and powered over to score the opening try. 0-5.
George Ford had the opportunity to respond for Tigers almost immediately, but his penalty attempt came back at him off the post – his second miss of the game.
The home side were starting to exert more pressure as the first-half wore on, and it looked as if Niall Morris had got their first points on the board only for his try to be ruled out by the TMO for a forward pass.
The score advantage remained with Bath thanks to some stern defence from the visitors, who absorbed the Tigers pressure well and held firm until the half-time whistle blew.
Ford found his angle with his first attempt of the second-half, getting Tigers on the board early on and after Simon Taylor was yellow carded on the 50th minute, Leicester continued to exert pressure. It resulted in another penalty five minutes later, and Ford was once again on target, taking the home side into the lead for the first time in the game. 6-5.
Bath were not content to sit back and defend however and came firing back at Tigers to claim the next score.
Anthony Perenise broke the line, charging his way up-field. The ball was recycled and Donald found Banahan out-wide. The centre stormed through the defence, found Tom Biggs inside and the winger had a clear run-in to stroll over the line. Donald was on target with the conversion, giving Bath a 6-12 lead.
Three minutes later though and there was a shift in momentum. Francois Louw was red carded for an off-the-ball incident, and Tigers took immediate advantage with Adam Thompstone going over in the corner after the Bath defence was stretched too far. 11-12.
Ford made up for his missed conversion moments later with another penalty to regain the lead for Tigers. 14-12.
Referee Tim Wigglesworth was soon going back in his pocket to brandish more cards after a clumsy high challenge from Banahan on Anthony Allen saw the Bath centre red carded, and Brett Deacon joined him in missing the rest of the game for retaliating.
The game seemed to lose its rhythm following the break in play, and it went from bad to worse for Bath as Donald was also sent to the sin-bin with 14 minutes left of the game.
With Bath temporarily down to 12 men Leicester were awarded a penalty and Ford extended the Tigers advantage with a further penalty with 12 minutes to go.
Bath were defending their hearts out, and a superb last gasp tackle from Abendanon on Dan Bowden when he had the try-line in front of him kept Bath in range of the losing bonus point.
As the clock ticked down, dogged defence was coupled with tireless attempts to attack but the visitors were unable to find a way through and Micky Young ended the game running the ball out when time was up.
Final score – Leicester Tigers 17 – Bath Rugby 12.