Bath Rugby were edged out 36-31 by old rivals Leicester Tigers in a thrilling encounter at Welford Road.
Round five of the Gallagher Premiership saw the Blue, Black and White score three tries through Beno Obano, Ben Spencer and Cameron Redpath but it was a 21-point haul from Leicester's George Ford that proved decisive.
Bath started well and scored following a good turnover at the maul through Josh McNally before Beno Obano claimed and scrambled over from close range. Rhys added the extra two.
The visitors soon added a second on 14 minutes - Ben Spencer finished off a fine move from Bath with a wonderful individual run, a chip kick over the last defender and managed to dribble the ball under the posts to dot down. Priestland added the extra two points.
Tigers then added six points of their own. The first coming on 20 minutes following a scrum penalty as Ford converted from 23 metres out and the second came from Tom Dunn being adjudged to be on the wrong side of the tackle with the England fly-half adding a further three points after 26 minutes.
As the pendulum swung, it was Leicester who benefitted with a huge rung from Ellis Genge giving the hosts the momentum to reload and restore patience to find the whitewash through youngster Freddie Steward. Ford added the conversion.
In a bizarre run of play, Tigers looked to add another score just before half-time but as Leicester slowed down the play, Bath's defensive line caught them off guard as Jonathan Joseph intercepted and kicked downfield. Bath then won a crucial penalty and Priestland put his side four points clear heading towards half-time.
However, Tigers had the final laugh of the half as Ford nailed his effort through the posts with a kick from the wide channel to bring the hosts back two within a point at the half.
Tigers continued their intent going into the second-half. After exchanging kicks, the ball went through the hands out wide as Harry Wells powered his way over from five metres out. Ford added the extra points.
Following this, a period of exchanging kicks came with Priestland on 48 minutes to put the visitors back within three points before Ford added another of his own to keep the gap at six. Priestland then added another from the tee, this time from a scrum penalty to narrow the gap once more on 55 minutes.
As the game progressed, Priestland nailed his opportunity, again from the tee, to level the scores on 64 minutes but just two minutes later Tigers delivered a decisive blow. After the interaction of the TMO, replacement Cameron Henderson crashed over from close range to give Leicester a significant lead. Ford converted to make the score 33-26.
But the game wasn't done there. On 74 minutes Ford nailed his kick from the tee to give the hosts a huge 10-point lead. Bath continued with their efforts to the final seconds of the game and gave themselves hope with four minutes left to play as young centre Cameron Redpath scored his first try for the Blue, Black and White.
A classic between these two age-old rivals, but the points went Leicester's way as the final whistle came to a close. A hard-fought encounter as Bath Rugby head back to the Rec next Friday to face an in-form Wasps side.
3 January 2021
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Half Time score: 16-17
- Tries: Steward (36), Wells (41), Henderson (64)
- Conversions: Ford (37, 42, 65)
- Penalties: Ford (23, 27, 44, 50, 73)
- Tries: Obano (2), Spencer (15), Redpath (76)
- Conversions: Priestland (3, 16)
- Penalties: Priestland (39, 47, 54, 62)