Leicester Tigers, who dominated GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP champions Sale Sharks last week, found Bath’s heavyweight pack a tougher nut to crack at the Rec on Saturday, with two late tries wrapping up a bonus point victory for the west country side.
The Tigers stood toe to toe and swapped blow for blow, mainly through the goal kicking of Andy Goode for the first hour but their indiscipline cost them dear.
They were heavily penalised by referee Dave Pearson, who sent flanker Louis Deacon and centre Dan Hipkiss to the sin-bin during the second half.
Bath needed no encouragement to take advantage against their opponents when they were reduced to 10 men and ran in late tries through full-back Nick Abendanon and wing Joe Maddock.
Matches between these two sides are always bruising affairs but the Tiger’s Argentina-born prop Alex Moreno did not even make it to kick-off after going over on his ankle in the warm-up.
Bath’s Olly Barkley opened the scoring in the very first minute with a 35-metre penalty but Goode quickly replied at the other end to bring his side level.
Turnover ball gave Bath the chance to score the first try just five minutes later, skipper Steve Borthwick appearing wide-out to finish off a move begun by Zak Feaunati and carried on by Lee Mears.
The cut and thrust continued when Tiger’s scrum-half Scott Bemand scootered away on the blind side of a scrum without a hand being laid on him and Goode converted to put his side 10-8 ahead with only 10 minutes elapsed.
For the rest of the half it was mainly a kicking duel between Barkley and Goode and Bath had their own discipline problems to contend with when Danny Grewcock was sin-binned after a fracas under the Bath posts, with Goode adding the penalty after 20 minutes.
Leicester’s full-back, Sam Vesty, got in on the act with an opportunist drop-goal from 45 metres out on the touchline but the stage was mainly left to Goode and Barkley as Leicester turned round at the break with a 22-17 lead.
The visitors lost Deacon to the bin seven minutes into the second half, penalised for preventing Bath winning a ruck and the home side opted without hesitation for a line-out.
Borthwick took the catch and his pack drove number eight Feaunati over for a try converted by Barkley.
Goode restored Leicester’s lead with another successful kick to make it 25-24 on 54 minutes and there was no indication at that time that Leicester were to fail to score for the rest of the match.
Instead Barkley landed another penalty on the hour and when he was high tackled by Goode shortly afterwards and was too groggy to take the kick Chris Malone stepped up to make it 30-25.
Leicester had their chances but Seru Rabeni spilled the ball with the line open.
Barkley punished Hipkiss for the offence that prompted his sin-binning with a sixth penalty, opening up a crucial two score margin on 73 minutes.
A couple of minutes later came the try of the game, a length-of-the-field effort finished off by the pacy Abendanon.
The crucial bonus point came a minute from time with Bath now in full cry and Maddock finishing off in the corner, this try also unconverted.