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Bath run halted by Tigers

Bath Rugby's seven-match winning run in the Guinness Premiership came to a juddering halt at Welford Road where the rampant Tigers pack took the honours.

Given a head start when Alesana Tuilagi was gifted a try after just 26 seconds, the league leaders scored four more tries, including a 75th minute penalty try which set the seal on a powerful scrummaging performance.

Bath managed two tries of their own in each half through Joe Maddock and Matt Banahan and Olly Barkley kicked a conversion and two penalties before being taken off at half-time with an elbow injury. Butch James converted Banahan's effort.

Head coach Steve Meehan was making no excuses for a below-par performance from his side, saying: "Leicester's line-out and scrum were very good and we couldn't get a grip on the game at all," he said. "The other areas weren't great but it was the set piece where we had problems.

"I thought at 33-20 with 20 minutes to go we were still in with a shout. But we went on to lose four line-outs in a row and if you haven't got the ball you can't put pressure on the opposition."

He added: "It certainly reinforces the point that in this competition regardless of whether you are playing home or away or who you are against, you've got to front up and play with a level of intensity that's going to give you a chance in the match. Certainly we'll have to address that.

"There's nothing wrong with our general play and with our skill levels. It's a question of being intense enough throughout, executing and challenging the opposition."

If there was any consolation in the performance it came in the way Nick Abendanon ran with verve and purpose from full-back, also tackling bravely and fielding the high ball with conviction. Barkley also kicked everything that was offered to him, including a near 50-metre effort which pegged Leicester back to 18-13 just before half-time.

But a lack-lustre first quarter from Bath allowed the home side to take control as Toby Flood converted Tuilagi's first try from wide out and then replied to Barkley's first penalty with a close-range effort of his own.

Referee Sean Davey repeatedly penalised the visitors at the breakdown and eventually issued a warning to Michael Claassens. When Flood then found touch to set up a line-out on the Bath 22, a clean take and quick transfer through midfield sucked in the Bath defence and Tuilagi again scored without a hand being laid on him. Flood's conversion was wide.

Even when Bath nicked a line-out from their hosts, they knocked the ball on. But they hit back against the run of play when Maddock latched on to a kick-through and skipped away from Lewis Moody to score under the posts on 23 minutes, Barkley adding the conversion.

Just when they appeared to be competing on equal terms, however, ex-Leicester player Peter Short was shown the yellow card for knocking the ball out of Ben Youngs' hands at a ruck. Flood kicked the penalty but Barkley summoned a long-range effort in reply.

That should have seen them safely to half-time trailing just 18-13 but with the clock showing zero, Youngs nicked the ball at the back of a scrum on the Bath 22. The supporting Tom Croft was hauled down at the posts and there were too few defenders to stop lock Geoff Parling for scoring Leicester's third try, converted by Flood.

The bonus point try came as early as three minutes after the restart, Anthony Allen adding the finishing touch after Leicester tapped a free-kick and sent Tuilagi barrelling down the left wing. Flood converted and added a penalty to make it 33-13 after Claassens was caught offside at a scrum.

Perhaps understandably, Leicester eased off and Bath battered away at the home line before James's flick pass sent Banahan over for a 54th minute score, converted by the fly-half. Bath's line-out problems derailed any hope of maintaining that comeback, however a fourth Flood penalty opened up a 16-point lead before the Tigers pack roused themselves again for one last big effort. After a sequence of scrums and penalties, one more scrum collapse prompted Mr Davey to run round behind the posts, leaving Flood with the easiest of conversions.

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