Leicester Tigers dug deep in the second half to stave off a Bath Rugby comeback at the Rec in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
The cup made its return to television screens after taking a season’s break and it was the hosts who got off to a fine start through Jack Wilson’s try and an Adam Hastings penalty.
Luke Hamilton and George Catchpole hit back and, coupled with the boot of Freddie Burns, Tigers raced into a healthy lead.
Great to win at The Rec. Such a hard place to go and win! Young boys stood up unbelievably well at the end. Going to enjoy my w/e at home!
— Freddie Burns (@FreddieBurns) November 4, 2016
Jeff Williams and Dan Bowden crossed the try-line to make things dicey for Leicester in the final moments but they hung on to record their first victory at the Rec in three-and-a-half years.
Adam Hastings – son of Scotland and Lions legend Gavin – wasted no time in making an impression as he slotted a penalty from 30 metres out after initially opening up the Leicester defence.
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) November 4, 2016
Prop Beno Obano then punched a hole in Leicester lines before play was called back for a penalty and Hastings booted the ball into the corner.
It proved a wise decision as, a further penalty later, Bath got their maul rolling before the ball found its way to Wilson and the former Otago wing marked his debut with a try.
Hastings’ tricky conversion attempt went astray before Bath were struck by an immediate riposte.
Bruising carries from front-rowers Greg Bateman and Harry Thacker softened up the hosts’ defence before Hamilton landed the final blow by taking the ball over the try-line. Freddie Burns’ conversion cut the deficit down to one point.
Tigers clearly had their tails up at this stage, as Burns’ kick through pinned Bath deep into their own half before the fly-half made the pressure count by scoring a penalty.
Leicester were then over again with 25 minutes gone as more fine carry from Thacker – this time following a lineout – saw the ball reach Catchpole, via George Worth, to dive over on the left.
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) November 4, 2016
Burns missed the conversion and then a penalty shortly after as Bath escaped further punishment before the first half hour was up.
Having absorbed so much pressure, Bath came back swinging in the final ten minutes of the half but Leicester stood firm in the face of a barrage by the forwards.
Leicester made an eye-catching change at half time as England flanker Tom Croft made his first appearance of the season, on for Joe Maksymiw, after recovering from a back injury.
Will Homer made an early dart that tested Leicester’s defences but Burns landed the first blow of the half from the tee after the visitors won a scrum penalty.
No.8 Fred Tuilagi became the eighth member of his family to pull on a Leicester first-team jersey when he replaced Tomas Leonardi in the 53rd minute.
And Leicester kept the scoreboard ticking over through Burns, another penalty extending the score out to 21-8, but a yellow card for replacement Pat Cilliers – for tackling the No.9 – changed the momentum.
Impressive England Under-20 back-rower Mercer stormed down the touchline and Williams surged over the line, though Hastings failed to add the extras.
Worth then missed a Leicester penalty before Bath made inroads through their forwards and Bowden plunged over the line out wide.
Hastings landed the conversion and with five minutes go, there was just one point in it but Leicester clung on to emerge victorious from the Rec.