Harry Thacker may have been awarded man of the match but the young hooker admits the experience of Freddie Burns played a huge part in Leicester Tigers’ Anglo-Welsh Cup victory at the Rec.
Leicester went behind early on after Jack Wilson scored on debut for Bath Rugby, but Thacker and co roared back in a dominant first-half display from the forwards.
Luke Hamilton and George Catchpole got the tries for Leicester but England fly-half Burns chipped in with 11 points in a display that brought composure to the ranks.
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) November 4, 2016
Despite Bath’s late attempt at a comeback, Tigers left the south west with a victory in the bag and the impressive Thacker believes determination saw them through.
“We came away with a win which is what we came down for, we had a few experienced bodies in that squad who were able to guide us and they did a good job,” he said. The youth that came in showed heart in bucketloads.
“When you’ve got a guy like Freddie who can pull those strings and put them in the right places it makes a lot of difference, and for us to look up and see we’re in the right areas of the pitch is a good boost. On nights like this it’s invaluable.
“We showed a lot of heart towards the end and we just showed we want to play for this shirt and this badge.”
There were returns for the old and the new in the second half for Leicester, with England and Lions flanker Tom Croft making his first appearance of the season while Fred Tuilagi became the eighth member of his family to pull on a first-team Tigers jersey.
And the back-rowers were part of a rearguard at the end, as Bath ran out of time to mount a comeback after Jeff Williams and Dan Bowden scored late tries.
England Under-20s No.8 Zach Mercer shone for Bath with some bruising carries but he deflected the praise towards his team – while also appreciating Thacker’s performance.
— Dominic Day (@DomDay5) November 4, 2016
“It just shows the spirit of the team, it was 21-8 and the score at the end was 21-20 – it could have gone either way,” he said.
“Fair play to Leicester, they stuck in there and their discipline was exceptional while ours was a bit off the pace.
“I’m proud of the lads, they went out there as favourites and I think we put our hands up and we could have won that game.
“We can’t use (youth) as an excuse, Leicester had some experienced boys and so did we. We dug in there deep though play to Harry Thacker, what a player he is and he just kept coming at us – we didn’t have any answers.”
Bath: Atkins; Williams (Priestland 71), Brew (Jennings 51), Bowden, Wilson; Hastings, Homer; Obano (Lahiff 61), van Vuuren, Knight (Palmer-Newport 61); Stooke, Humfrey (Ellis 61); Douglas, (Bayliss 61) G Mercer, Z Mercer.
Not used: Allinson, Oghre
Leicester: Worth; Brady (C Thacker 55 (Brugnara 59)), Smith (Bryant 37), Roberts, Catchpole (Harrison 50); Burns (Brady 67), Kitto; Bateman, H Thacker, Balmain (Cilliers 51); Wells, Maskymiw (Croft 41); Hamilton, Evans (McGuigan 69), Leonardi (Tuilagi 51).
Try: Wilson, Williams, Bowden
Try: Hamilton, Catchpole
Penalties: Burns 3
Referee: Dan Jones