A sensational hat-trick from Matt Banahan sealed Bath Rugby’s spot in the Aviva Premiership Rugby final, as they outclassed Leicester Tigers to win 47-10 at the Rec.
Tom Youngs gave the Tigers hope on the stroke of half-time, bringing the score to 21-10 after Banahan’s double and Kyle Eastmond had put a ruthless Bath in the ascendancy.
And despite dominating possession for most of the game, Leicester could not pierce a dogged Bath defence again, and Peter Stringer and George Ford’s scores made the victory certain.
Banahan wrapped up his hat-trick with four minutes remaining, before Anthony Watson rubbed salt in the Tigers’ wounds with the seventh try of the afternoon as the clock ticked into the red.
The hosts got the game off to the perfect start, earning territory from a first minute penalty, before quick-ball and a perfectly delayed pass from Ford released Jonathan Joseph, who gratefully side-stepped a defender and put Banahan into the corner to score.
Ford struck a perfect conversion from the touchline, and Bath were 7-0 up with just three minutes on the clock.
But a spirited response from Leicester saw them build the phases and progress to the Bath try-line, where only dogged defence from the home side kept them at bay.
Freddie Burns pulled two penalty attempts left of the posts as the Tigers gave the home defence a thorough examination, but made it third time lucky to get his side deservedly on the scoreboard after 23 minutes.
But just a minute later Bath had crossed the whitewash again. Sam Burgess’ carry opened up space outside, before Ford and Joseph combined once again to release Banahan in the same corner.
Ford’s boot delivered another classy conversion and for all of Leicester’s possession, Bath were 14-3 up after just two visits to the 22.
And after seeing Banahan’s heroics on the left, Semesa Rokoduguni wanted a piece of the action on the right, and after side-stepping his defender on the right his chip bounced beautifully into the arms of Eastmond who finished with aplomb – Ford again adding the extras on 30 minutes.
Leicester desperately sought a try in response, and after both Watson and Leroy Houston saw yellow with the Tigers bombarding the Bath line, Niall Morris was denied in the left corner by Rokoduguni’s try-saving tackle – TMO confirming he had knocked on.
But after coming back for an earlier penalty, Youngs found space and went over on the opposite flank, Burns hitting a cracking conversion to give the Tigers hope heading into the interval.
Burns leaked another long-range penalty attempt to the left of the posts immediately after the restart, and Tommy Bell was also unsuccessful from the tee four minutes later as the Tigers wasted priceless scoring chances.
Bath tightened up in defence as they attempted to slow the game down, and as in the first half, Leicester struggled to get the business done in the 22 despite dominating possession.
Vereniki Goneva looked to have gone clear on 61 minutes but was relentlessly chased down by Joseph, and it was again Bath who broke away to score against the run of play to all but end the argument.
Replacement Carl Fearns makes break, before handing over to Francois Louw, who offloaded to the outgoing Stringer to score in his final game for Bath.
After adding yet another conversion, the brilliant Ford capped a fine performance with a try of his own from nowhere, Rokoduguni again the provider.
And Banahan completed the rout and his hat-trick with four minutes remaining thanks to Watson’s devastating run and offload, before the England international found time to cross himself in the dying moments – brutal Bath recording seven tries from as many entries into Leicester’s 22.
The Tigers were denied a tenth Aviva Premiership Rugby final in 11 years, while jubilant Bath fans will now look forward to a first final since 2004.