Thomas Waldrom puts in a typical shift for the Tigers
5 May 2012, 05:55 pm ::
Twelvetrees steers Tigers into a home semi-final
Billy Twelvetrees showed what Leicester will miss next season when he helped the Tigers book an Aviva Premiership Rugby home semi-final with a comfortable 28-3 win over Bath.
The 23-year-old England Saxon centre, who is leaving for Gloucester at the end of the campaign, replaced the injured Toby Flood at half-time and helped Leicester turn a 3-0 half-time lead into a 28-3 victory at Welford Road.
Twelvetrees kicked 10 points and created two of the Tigers' three tries in a win which earned them a semi-final next Saturday at home to Saracens, the team they have played in the last two finals.
Leicester went into the match knowing they needed to win to book a home play-off semi-final, while Bath could only qualify for Europe with a bonus point win.
The Tigers were forced to make an 11th hour change, Sam Harrison replacing England scrum-half Ben Youngs. They made two other changes from the side that beat leaders Harlequins, with prop Martin Castrogiovanni and flanker Steve Mafi replacing Dan Cole and the injured Tom Croft respectively.
England hooker Lee Mears captained Bath in the absence of the injured Stuart Hooper, whose place in the second row went to Ben Skirving. Olly Woodburn was recalled on the wing.
There was little for the sell-out 24,000 crowd to cheer in a lacklustre, mistake-ridden first half which ended with Leicester holding a 3-0 lead thanks to a penalty by fly-half Flood.
Both defences were in form, and Bath will have been delighted with the way they repelled numerous Leicester attacks in the second quarter and destroyed a Tigers scrum near their own posts when the home side went for the try rather than three points from a penalty.
Flood missed a long penalty in the third minute before converting another four minutes later, but Bath centre Olly Barkley missed a 45-metre penalty shortly afterwards.
Bath mounted some strong attacks on the Leicester line from a five-metre scrum which Alesana Tuilagi was forced to concede after a clever kick to the corner by Bath scrum-half Michael Claassens.
Leicester's defence, however, held firm and England centre Manu Tuilagi relieved the pressure when he ripped the ball off Barkley in the 19th minute.
Leicester, wearing their new strip for next season, should have scored a minute later when winger Horacio Agulla blasted through the Bath defence but Geordan Murphy was unable to hold on to his poor pass with the line at his mercy.
The game finally burst into life in the 29th minute when Manu Tuilagi wriggled free of several Bath players. Alesana kicked into the 22 and felt he was blocked before Manu surged down the left only to knock on in the tackle.
Flood almost made the line before being nailed by Claassens and then Thomas Waldrom launched another attack from a free-kick. But, again, Bath's defence not only held firm but scored a psychological point when they pushed the Tigers scrum back on their own line.
Flood hurt a leg at a ruck and was replaced by Twelvetrees who hit a post with a long-range penalty right on half-time.
Twelvetrees missed with a 40-metre penalty seven minutes after the break but then exchanged penalties with Barkley. He sparked Leicester into life with a fabulous outside break which ended with a try for centre Anthony Allen.
Twelvetrees put Agulla away down the right with a lovely floated pass and after some fierce pressure he popped up near the line to provide an inside scoring pass to Allen before slotting the conversion.
Bath turned down a penalty chance but lost the line-out as they went for the try. Leicester cleared before Twelvetrees extended their lead to 16-3 with his second penalty. Leicester made it 23-3 in the 71st minute when the referee lost patience with Bath' scrum and awarded a penalty try which Twelvetrees converted.
And it became 28-3 two minutes from time when Twelvetrees provided the scoring pass for Agulla after a great break by Tom Youngs. Twelvetrees converted.