Bath Rugby gained some vengeance for their quarter-final Champions Cup defeat against Leinster last season, beating the Irish province 19-16 tonight in front of a record crowd at the Rec.
A frenetic opening ten minutes had only a Johnny Sexton penalty to show for either side's endeavours to run the ball, the fly-half kicking a straight-down-the-line penalty for a 0-3 lead.
At a re-set Bath scrum minutes later, the home side turned the screw on Leinster's pack and won a penalty that George Ford struck successfully to draw the scores level: 3-3.
At the end of the first quarter, with no let-up in the Leinster defence forthcoming, scrum-half Chris Cook spun a crisp pass to Ford, who sat in the pocket to snap a drop goal.
Sexton missed an ambitious long-range penalty to give Bath a slight lead going into half time.
Half time: Bath Rugby 6-3 Leinster
The commencement of the second half came with roars of satisfaction from the home crowd as Bath not only won a scrum against the head, but then proceeded to win a penalty at said scrum. Ford made it count with three points. 9-3.
Sexton ensured Leinster were still in the game with over half an hour left, striking a penalty near the home 22. Fewer than ten minutes later, the Ireland international brought things level with a further penalty. 9-9.
Bath's forwards, consistently excellent throughout the match, seemed to have struck the decisive blow on the hour when their commanding scrum on the Leinster 5m garnered the home side a penalty try, converted by Ford. 16-9.
Leinster played a penalty advantage in the 69th minute and reaped the rewards as flanker Josh van der Flier cruised through to score. Sexton was on hand with the conversion to equalise. 16-16.
Bath's imposing pack again exerted themselves on the game with minutes left on the clock, allowing Ford a shot at goal from out wide. The unflappable fly-half made light work of the difficult shot to take the lead for Bath. 19-16.
In the 78th minute, Bath saw replacement back row Alafoti Faosiliva yellow-carded for a reckless tackle. At the resulting lineout, the home crowd was ecstatic as lock Dave Attwood pinched the Leinster ball. From there, Bath were able to hold on and see out a famous victory against the three-time European champions.
Full time: Bath Rugby 19-16 Leinster
European Rugby Champions Cup
21 November 2015
Referee: Jérome Garcès
Half Time score: 6-3
- Conversions: Ford (62)
- Penalties: Ford (15, 45, 76)
- Drop goals: Ford (20)
- Tries: van der Flier (69)
- Conversions: Sexton (69)
- Penalties: Sexton (8, 48, 55)