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Match reaction: Bath Rugby 33 Leicester Tigers 31

Match reaction: Bath Rugby 33 Leicester Tigers 31

Bath Rugby surged to the top of Pool 1 in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, after a narrow 33-31 victory over Leicester Tigers maintained their 100 per cent winning start to the competition.

They had to rely on a last-gasp penalty try to snatch the win at the Rec, after a Jonah Holmes double and Adam Thompstone’s score had put the visitors in the ascendancy.

But Freddie Burns gave Bath a lifeline on the stoke of the interval with a brilliant individual try, and then Bath’s scrummaging came to the fore to win them the game in the second 40.

First, replacement Zach Mercer – who had been training with the England squad this week – pounced on a loose ball after a massive Bath shove five metres out, before referee Greg MacDonald awarded a penalty try with seconds remaining in the game after relentless pressure from the hosts in the closing stages.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Freddie Burns was the clear winner for the gong in this match, scoring 19 points on his own against his former club.

The No.10 clearly had a point to prove after being in and out of the Bath team so far under Todd Blackadder, and he certainly laid down a marker on Friday evening.

Not only was his place kicking faultless, but his skill to collect his own chip over the top and score with the clock ticking into the red at the end of the first half was masterful.

TRY OF THE MATCH

Burns’ effort just before the interval was the outstanding piece of skill from this clash and will deservedly take its place on the highlight reel.

Not only was it a brilliantly-taken effort, in the context of the game with was monumental – without that particular contribution, Bath may well have been down and out at the break.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

Leicester produced some magic of their own in this clash, and Jonah Holmes took his try tally to three in two Anglo-Welsh Cup matches his season with a double at the Rec.

His first effort was a demonstration of extreme pace; after Charlie Thacker charged down Burns’ attempted chip over the top and hackled on, Holmes won the footrace to stake his claim for more time in the Tigers’ first XV.

WHAT THEY SAID

Bath’s man-of-the-match Freddie Burns said: “First and foremost credit to the Leicester boys – I trained with a lot of the academy players last year and to see them get their opportunity and play the way they did was great.

“I’m just thankful that our boys stuck to the task and we managed to dig it out in the end. It was a bit of a ‘get out of jail free’ at the end.

“Our form at home this year hasn’t been the best and that’s something we want to put right. Sometimes it’s not about the performance, it’s just about getting the win and the pack dug us out of a hole at the end.

“It was important to squeeze it out. Performance-wise it wasn’t brilliant, but winning is a habit and after winning at London Irish last week as well we’re very happy.”

Leicester’s two-try scorer Jonah Holmes added: “We said before the game that the most important thing was to put the right amount of effort in – you can’t fault the boys for making mistakes if the effort is right.

“And you could really see the effort we put in there, you can see that on the scoreboard too. We had a very young side out there too – Tom Hardwick ran the game for us brilliantly, so good on him.

“These game are our chance to show what we can do, and everyone out here has their fingers crossed that something comes from it and we get a chance in the Aviva Premiership.”

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