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England stars can’t save Leicester

29 Nov 2003
England stars can’t save Leicester

The Tigers suffered during the absence of their international contingent during the Rugby World Cup, losing five of their opening 10 league games to slump a daunting 21 points behind the league leaders – and their opponents on the day, Bath.

In an attempt to stop the rot, coach Dean Richards gave immediate recalls to England's RWC heroes – with Ben Kay, Lewis Moody, Martin Corry and Julian White starting, while captain Martin Johnson started on the bench alongside fellow veterans Dorian West and Neil Back.

Ultimately the brave ploy was to no avail, and Bath managed to squeak past their hosts in the dying minutes to record their first victory at Welford Road since 1995.

The home side started stronger – dominating the first 15 minutes and finding themselves leading by six points via two penalty goals from Italian fly-half Ramiro Pez.

Bath soon lost the services of their scrum-half Martyn Wood after he was shown the red card by referee Roy Maybank after he was spotted stamping.

The visitors were still looking to regroup when they were forced into another change when centre Mike Catt limped off although, at least, his replacement was Mike Tindall, who was picked ahead of him for last Saturday's World Cup Final.

But Bath bounced back soon after Catt's departure, centre Andrew Higgins lifting their spirits by breaking clear 40 metres out and fending off several flailing challenges to score near the posts. Olly Barkley added the conversion to steal the lead, before notching up a penalty goal on the stroke of half-time to extend the advantage.

Leicester signalled their intentions by bringing on Johnson, Back and West in the second half and the sight of so many World Cup winners on the pitch stirred the emotions of the 17,000-strong crowd, but the home side failed to find the necessary fire and were unable to take advantage of their numbers advantage.

Crucial handling errors deprived them of any continuity, but two late penalties from Pez won the Tigers the lead and – it seemed – the match, only for Bath to snatch the win when Barkley coolly landed a penalty with just four minutes remaining.

The scorers:

For Leicester Tigers:Pens: Pez 4

For Bath:Tries: HigginsCons: BarkleyPens: Barkley 2

For more news, try out Leicester Tigers v Bath Rugby

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