Leicester extended their lead at the top of the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP but were made to work for every point against a resilient Bath at Welford Road.
Tigers were on a revenge mission following their 43-21 defeat at the Recreation Ground last September, despite again being without a hatful of regulars due to injury and RBS 6 Nations calls.
Bath, on the other hand, were less hampered, with the formidable trio of England caps Matt Stevens, at tight-head prop, and second rows Steve Borthwick and Danny Grewcock bolstering their pack.
Grewcock is trying to force his way back into national coach Brian Ashton’s considerations after being dropped for the last two Tests, while Borthwick has just recovered from a rib injury.
However, it was another England man who had the first chance to put some points on the board as Leicester went over the top of a ruck.
But Bath centre Olly Barkley’s penalty from 49 metres caught the headwind and sank beneath the crossbar.
The west country team took the initiative in the opening quarter, with wing Joe Maddock coming close and scrum-half Nick Walshe lively.
Leicester found it tough to get any ball to put moves together despite the advantage of the strong breeze down the pitch.
And Maddock was nearly in again at the corner before being bundled into touch and referee Wayne Barnes also calling for a forward pass.
Leicester were at sixes and sevens and the one chance they had to cause damage went astray as wing Leon Lloyd failed to take a pass from full-back John Murphy on his own 22 with an open field in front of him.
However, on their first major attack the Tigers took the lead. The ball was spun across the backline before centre Dan Hipkiss gave a lovely pass to full-back John Murphy on the charge.
Murphy shot forward and cut inside past the Bath defence to score near the posts. Goode converted and Leicester had suddenly woken from their early slumber.
And better was to come from the Tigers. Barkley finally put his team on the board with an easy penalty from 15 metres in front of the posts after a silly mistake from the home side.
But Leicester countered with a vengeance in the space of two minutes as wing Leon Lloyd accepted a ball from Murphy on the right after a sweeping cross-backs movement and just got home in the corner ahead of some desperate defence.
Then rising star Tom Varndell added another try to his list by racing into open space as scrum-half Frank Murphy chipped over the top of a ruck. The ball popped up sweetly for the big winger to flash down the left and score.
That made it 19-3 to the home team but Bath would not lay down and die. Maddock grabbed an important lifeline just before half-time with a try which Barkley converted and the centre booted his second penalty minutes after the break.
The third was not long in coming from the Bath centre but Leicester were left kicking themselves just before the hour when Varndell missed a sitter of a try when he was wide open behind the visiting backs in midfield but failed to catch a cross-kick from Lloyd.
The thrilling game then entered a further phase as Varndell was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, Barkley booted another penalty and replacement Shaun Berne kicked a drop goal to put Bath in front for the first time.
But their lead was short-lived as home centre Darryl Gibson went over in the corner for Goode to convert.
Barkley’s fifth penalty made it 26-25 but Goode put over another penalty in injury-time.
However, the game ended in controversy as replacement Eliota Fuimaonon-Sapolu was held up while over the Leicester line for a try which was not awarded and the Tigers were home.