Andy Goode emerged from the wreckage of England’s dismal RBS 6 Nations Championship campaign to deliver a sublime wet-weather performance as Leicester sunk Recreation Ground hosts Bath.
England fly-half Goode warmed up for next Saturday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final clash between the clubs by masterminding only Tigers’ third Guinness Premiership away win this season.
Goode suffered Twickenham heartbreak last weekend, booting 14 points during an agonising 28-24 defeat against Ireland, yet he showed no sign of a hangover, easing Tigers home to give them a psychological edge before the all-English European showdown.
He landed four penalties and a conversion, while also creating the game’s solitary try for wing Leon Lloyd on 30 minutes.
Bath battled aggressively on a stamina-sapping surface, but despite four Chris Malone penalties securing a losing bonus point, they could have no complaints about the result as Leicester prevailed despite having England flanker Lewis Moody yellow-carded.
Tigers’ victory keeps them firmly in the title play-off picture, while a Heineken Cup semi-final place also beckons if they can produce a repeat performance by subduing Bath’s much-vaunted forwards at Walkers Stadium in seven days’ time.
Leicester welcomed back four of their England stars on Six Nations duty against Ireland as Goode, Moody, Harry Ellis and Martin Corry all returned, while Bath included red rose trio Lee Mears, Steve Borthwick and Danny Grewcock.
Tigers went into battle anxious to improve weak league away form this season, having won just twice from eight starts on their travels, while Bath found themselves still hovering around the relegation zone, albeit 10 points above basement club Leeds.
Leicester dominated the opening exchanges as their forwards relished the wet and heavy going, with Goode rifling over a 45-metre penalty to put them 3-0 ahead after seven minutes.
Bath struggled for momentum and territory, although Tigers temporarily lost ground when Corry was penalised and warned by referee Chris White following a skirmish with his England colleague Borthwick.
Goode’s second successful penalty doubled the Leicester lead, and his all-round kicking game proved of infinitely higher standard than opposite number Malone, despite Malone narrowing the gap through a 21st-minute strike.
Malone slotted an equalising penalty seven minutes later following a sustained spell of Bath pressure, yet Leicester still looked the most dangerous attacking outfit, with Goode pulling the strings despite sacrificing a kickable penalty for a failed tactical manoeuvre.
Goode’s quality surfaced again 10 minutes before the break as Leicester breached Bath’s defence and the fly-half floated out a high-class scoring pass to an unmarked Lloyd before effortlessly slotting an immaculate touchline conversion.
Leicester were full value for their advantage, but Bath hit back before the break, mounting a searing raid into Tigers’ 22 that ended with Moody being sin-binned for deliberate offside and Malone completing his penalty hat-trick.
But Goode landed another three-pointer during injury time, hoisting Leicester 16-9 clear and giving Bath plenty to ponder during the break.
Even with Moody temporarily out of the action, Leicester remained organised as Goode continued bossing the game through his prodigious right boot, and Tigers looked poised to add a second try, but Corry spilled wing Geordan Murphy’s pass.
Leicester comfortably absorbed Bath’s best attacking efforts around the forward fringes, and as conditions worsened on a gloomy west country afternoon, so the home side began making handling errors, with Grewcock and Mears both guilty of costly fumbles.
Grewcock was substituted 17 minutes from time, and Bath’s collective sense of frustration grew when prop Duncan Bell dropped the ball on a rare occasion that Leicester were stretched defensively.
Bath’s best efforts ultimately came to nothing, and Goode’s late penalty enabled Leicester to celebrate a first Premiership away success since January 8.