Bath Rugby suffered a close 20-21 defeat to Leicester Tigers in their opening game of this season’s Anglo-Welsh Cup at the Recreation Ground this evening.
Fly-half Adam Hastings opened the scoring for the home side after five minutes with a well-struck penalty after Zach Mercer had won the penalty at the breakdown. 3-0.
The lead was extended after 12 minutes when debutant Jack Wilson – who arrived from Otago this week – finished off a neat move in the corner after the home forwards had applied the pressure at the lineout and subsequent maul. 8-0.
Leicester hit back almost immediately with a try of their own, Luke Hamilton crashing over from short-range after they had applied a heavy dose of pressure on the defence. Freddie Burns added the conversion, bringing the visitors to within a point after a quarter of hour of play. 8-7.
Burns kept the pressure on, pinning Bath back into their own half, and then striking a penalty neatly through the posts when the referee deemed the home side had infringed.
The lead for the visitors was further extended on the 25th minute, when George Catchpole went over in the corner following a strong carry from Harry Thacker. Burns sent the conversion wide, and also missed a further penalty opportunity that would have extended the lead beyond a converted try.
After soaking-up wave after wave of pressure, the home side started to test their visitors once more as the half drew to a close, but Leicester held firm.
Half-time: Bath Rugby 8 – Leicester Tigers 15
Bath came out brightly once more at the beginning of the second forty, Will Homer darting through and keeping the defence alert, but it was Burns who continued to keep his side’s score ticking over with another penalty won at the scrum.
He added another on the 51st minute, but a yellow card to replacement prop Pat Cilliers, for tackling the 9, shifted the momentum in Bath’s favour and they were quick to take advantage of the extra man.
Zach Mercer stormed down the right hand touchline, finding Jeff Williams on his shoulder in support. The winger collected the offload and sprinted away and over the line. 13-21.
Homer took a quick tap penalty to keep Bath on the front foot, and after the forwards had drawn the defence tight with their picking and going, the ball was quickly spread wide for Dan Bowden to run over the line and touchdown. Hastings landed the conversion, taking Bath to within a point with five minutes left to play.
The young Bath side fought hard in those closing minutes, but Leicester held their nerve and the lead to see them head back up the M5 with a narrow win under their belts.
Final score: Bath Rugby 20 – Leicester Tigers 21