Bath ground out a hard-earned victory to ease their GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP relegation fears and send bottom club Leeds Carnegie deeper into the mire.
Victory for Leeds would have lifted them off the foot of the table and above Bath but Steve Meehan’s side dug deep to seal the win courtesy of Michael Stephenson’s first-half try and five penalties from fly-half Nicky Little.
Joe Ford kicked five penalties for Leeds but, despite a spirited display, they could not penetrate a resolute Bath rearguard.
Both sides came into the match on the back of morale-boosting victories last weekend – Bath beat west country rivals Gloucester convincingly at home and Leeds won 16-15 at Newcastle.
The hosts had not won on home soil in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP since March 2008 but they soon established an early 6-0 lead with two penalties from Ford.
Ford, who also missed a long-range penalty attempt in the opening exchanges, earned a place in the starting line-up because first-choice fly-half Ceiron Thomas picked up a rib injury against Newcastle.
And, after Little got the visitors off the mark in the 16th minute with a penalty, Ford again showed his class with his third three-pointer of the match to put Leeds 9-3 ahead.
Leeds were the more vibrant side in the opening quarter but an offence at a scrum was penalised in the 23rd minute and Little kicked the resulting penalty to cut the gap to three points.
Leeds looked dangerous when on the attack but they could not penetrate the visitors’ line and fell behind for the first time in the 29th minute when Bath claimed the only try of the match.
The score stemmed from an outstanding run down the right flank from number eight Luke Watson, who was held up just short of the line before Stephenson followed up to burrow his way over the line.
Little failed to add the extras from near the touchline but he and Ford traded penalties before the break to ensure an interval scoreline of 14-12 in Bath’s favour.
However, five minutes after the restart Ford kicked his fifth penalty from six attempts to edge Leeds back in front.
Bath began to increase the tempo thereafter but Leeds were happy to constantly kick the ball clear to leave their opponents frustrated.
The match became scrappy but the pendulum began to swing in Leeds’ favour going into the final quarter and they threatened to score a potentially-decisive try.
Yet Bath were back in front with 16 minutes remaining when Leeds were caught offside and Little showed notable poise to convert the resulting penalty.
That put the visitors 17-15 in front and, despite late pressure from the hosts, there was no way back as Little added his fifth penalty to see Bath home and dry.