George Ford pulled the strings in imperious fashion as Bath Rugby fired a warning shot to the rest of the Aviva Premiership with a record-breaking win over Leicester Tigers at the Rec that moves them top of the table.
Ford has started the season in superb form and his former employers Leicester found him far too hot to handle as the hosts ran in five tries in all while keeping the vistors scoreless.
Semesa Rokoduguni and Jonathan Joseph grabbed Bath’s two tries before the interval while the young fly-half added 13 points from the boot including a long-range drop goal as they went in 23-0 to the good.
After the break Mike Ford’s side were unrelenting as Kyle Eastmond, Olly Woodburn and then Peter Stringer rubber stamped their biggest ever win against their famous old rivals and mean that Bath have begun the season with three successive victories for the first time since 2003/4.
Richard Cockerill’s men have now not beaten the West Country outfit in any of their last five meetings and right from the off it was clear that it was not going to be their day after their first-choice centre pairing of Anthony Allen and Manu Tuilagi were both late withdrawals due to injury.
And once the game got going it was clear that fly-half Ford, under the watchful gaze of England attack coach Mike Catt, was in the mood, the 21-year-old making a first-minute break down the left touchline that only served as a taster for what was to come.
Bath were dominant in every department of the game, Leicester losing scrums against the head and inviting pressure from the hosts.
And with only eight minutes played they hit the front, Ford’s cut-out pass to the right feeding Carl Fearns who in turn fed Rokoduguni and the in-form winger touched down in the right corner for his fourth try of the campaign.
The Bath front row were having it all their own way at scrum time, Leonardo Ghiraldini preferred to Tom Youngs but struggling to get his hook in as the hosts won yet another penalty.
Ford, who had already slotted the previous conversion from the right touchline, continued his fine kicking form from the tee as he added the subsequent three points for a 10-0 lead.
Bath were really starting to purr now, and with barely quarter-of-an-hour played they had their second try as Eastmond hit his centre partner Joseph in stride with a lovely flat ball and the latter turned on the jets to steam over through the heart of the Leicester defence. Ford’s conversion went over via the post and the hosts were 17-0 to the good.
Having showed their sharpness in attack, Bath then flexed their muscles in defence as Leicester’s first real platform in the opposition 22 came to nothing.
And back up the other end Ford’s masterclass continued, the 21-year-old slotting a drop-goal and then a penalty as the one-way traffic continued.
The only dampeners for Bath in a supreme first half were injuries to Carl Fearns and Matt Banahan but after the break there was no let up as Ford added his third penalty of the game to make it 26-0.
If the home fans could not believe their eyes then, they were soon in absolute dreamland as Bath scored a team try that will struggle to be bettered throughout the rest of the season.
A turnover ball under their own posts was worked to the left and it was Joseph who made the initial break carrying play up to the halfway line. Then it was his centre partner Eastmond that wriggled his way into the 22 and a couple of phases later Ford’s tap-pass put Eastmond over for an end-to-end score that had the Rec fit to burst.
Ford then proved he was human as his conversion came back off the post but Leicester were completely powerless in the face of the onslaught, Bath happy to attack from anywhere as Dave Attwood cantered over halfway with still less than an hour played.
Joseph, so impressive in the first three games of the season, then went off injured but not even that could knock Ford and co. off their stride and they had their bonus point not long after.
With Leicester on the attack, a quick turnover ball saw Ford kick deep and replacement winger Woodburn won the foot race, swapped passes with No.8 Leroy Houston and strolled under the posts.
Stringer then completed the rout as Leicester’s wait for a first win at the Rec since 2006 goes on.