Anthony Watson’s late double handed Matt O’Connor a nightmare start to his time in charge of Leicester Tigers as Bath Rugby won The Clash in thrilling circumstances 27-21 at Twickenham.
In the glorious sunshine Leicester were on course to give O’Connor the perfect start to his second spell with the Tigers, as they led 21-13 with 15 minutes to go, but Watson popped up twice in three minutes to turn the game around.
As a result Bath moved level on points with Leicester in the table in fourth, and with three games to go it’s all to play for in the battle for a semi-final spot.
In front of 61,868 supporters, Leicester had looked set to run away with it with two early tries and they led for the majority of the encounter before Watson’s late intervention.
Leicester had burst out of the blocks with Brendon O’Connor crossing just five minutes in after Bath failed to deal with a Burns up-and-under.
The fly-half added the conversion before some individual magic from Telusa Veainu stretched the Tigers lead.
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) April 8, 2017
Jonathan Joseph had been turned over in the ruck by Brendon O’Connor, and the ball was shifted quickly to Veainu. The Tongan international spotted space in behind, kicked through and had too much gas for Matt Banahan as the ball stopped just over the line and he was able to dot down. Burns couldn’t convert on this occasion.
Bath were rocked but in George Ford they had a constant threat with ball in hand, with Leicester struggling to contain their future fly-half.
And it was his wide pass that gave Joseph the easy run-in for Bath’s first try, with Ford knocking over the conversion for good measure to make it 12-7.
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) April 8, 2017
The Bath fly-half added a penalty just before the half-hour, although that was cancelled out by three points from Burns with Leicester getting the upper hand in the scrum.
Leading 15-10 at the break, Leicester extended their lead with a Burns penalty three minutes into the second half.
Ford matched him but when Burns slotted another with 14 minutes to go, Leicester looked to be stretching clear.
However two Watson tries in a matter of minutes, the first created by a brilliant Taulupe Faletau break, turned the game on its head.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) April 8, 2017
In between JP Pietersen had been sin-binned for an intentional knock-on, and once he had departed Bath used their electric backline to put Banahan away and his no-look pass gave Watson the simplest of run-ins.
Ford converted both and Bath led 27-21 with less than ten minutes to go.
Leicester gave it everything to try to come back, but struggled to create a clearcut chance, with their last opportunity disappearing when they failed to make touch from a late penalty.
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