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Flood claims narrow victory with flawless display against Bath

23 Oct 2010
Flood claims narrow victory with flawless display against Bath

England fly-half Toby Flood booted a drop goal and six penalties as Leicester claimed a narrow victory at Welford Road to further dent Bath’s Aviva Premiership Rugby aspirations and get their title defence back on track.

Flood, who returned from a knee injury just six days ago, produced a flawless display with the boot as the Tigers' grunt up front saw them grind out the win.

Bath, to their credit, recovered well after a terrible opening 20 minutes but five penalties from centre Olly Barkley were not enough to give them a first win at the home of their fierce rivals since November 2003.

The West Country side had entered the new campaign hopeful of making an impact on both domestic and European fronts thanks to the investment of new owner Bruce Craig and the addition of Lions guru Sir Ian McGeechan to their staff.

But, while they can take heart from a combative effort and a losing bonus point, this was their fourth reverse in their last six games in all competitions and they appear to be a little way away from being genuine title contenders.

Leicester handed starts to props Boris Stankovich and Dan Cole in the only two changes from the side that thrashed Scarlets last weekend.

Bath were without England captain Lewis Moody, who had not recovered from an eye injury in time to face the club where he spent 14 years, but fly-half Sam Vesty got the chance to lock horns with his former team-mates while prop Duncan Bell was a late replacement for David Wilson at tighthead.

Vesty blotted his copybook by kicking the ball dead from just outside his 22 after just 32 seconds, and the visitors were punished from the resulting scrum as Flood scooped a low Ben Youngs pass off his toes to drop a goal for an early 3-0 lead. Bath struggled to gain a foothold in the game as a sixth-minute Flood penalty doubled the Tigers lead.

Barkley got Bath on the board with an 11th minute penalty as the visitors finally got out of their own half but they infringed again after Anthony Allen had gathered the restart, Flood duly re-established the home side's six-point lead and added his third penalty at the end of a one-sided first quarter with Bath's ill-discipline costing them dear.

Barkley responded with a brilliant penalty from the halfway line as the heavy rain that had arrived doused the ground and with the conditions deteriorating at a rapid rate the game turned into a bout of aerial ping-pong, making for an error-strewn spectacle as both sides struggled with the sodden surface and ball.

Barkley had a chance to trim Bath's arrears to just three a handful of minutes prior to the break, but his penalty fell short.

Full-back Nick Abendanon then launched a thrilling counter down the left flank as Steve Meehan's men kept the pressure on to set up another penalty opportunity right on half-time, but Barkley was again off target.

The rain relented for the start of the second stanza but Vesty's tough return to his former home continued as he failed to role away at a ruck and Flood stepped up to kick his fourth penalty, with another following in the 49th minute as Leicester threatened to clear off into the distance.

But Bath continued to battle and two Barkley penalties in quick succession ensured the Tigers could not quite shake them off as the match entered its final quarter.

The visitors' fightback gathered momentum as Leicester captain Geordan Murphy was caught in position and sealed the ball off to hand Barkley a three-point chance he gratefully accepted to set up a tense finale.

But a powerful Tom Croft surge gave Leicester field position and Flood effectively sealed the win with his sixth penalty eight minutes from time – and the Tigers held out a late Bath attack.

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