Tigers’ pack suffer mauling at the death
THE Anglo-Welsh Cup is much maligned but here was a brilliant cut-throat spectacle to belie criticism of the competition.
Both teams went at each other in a fierce battle between the two old rivals.
Defeat was rough justice on Leicester as they led until the 78th minute when a penalty try rewarded Bath’s total scrum dominance after Tigers had repeatedly infringed to incur a huge penalty count.
Leicester coach, Geordan Murphy, said: “It was a heroic effort from our youngsters. We defended as if our lives depended upon it.
“We were under a load of pressure and we could have held on, but there were huge momentum swings as we lacked experience at crucial times.”
Despite the efforts of Harry Thacker and Fred Tuilagi, Leicester were second best up front – but behind the scrum they startled their opponents with their invention.
Harry Simmons and Jordan Olowofela looked fine prospects as Bath’s defence was frequently exposed. Coach Stuart Hooper said: “They made some brilliant off-loads near to the breakdown but our defence went to sleep, which you can’t afford to do against Leicester.
“Fortunately we had Freddie (Burns), who is an intelligent rugby player and he got us going forward by telling others what to do.”
In what was Burns’ first game against his former side, he tried too hard to impress early on before his class shone through with a solo try and some exemplary goal-kicking.
Tom Hardwick had put Tigers ahead with a penalty before a mistake from Burns gifted the opening try. On half-way, Burns attempted a chip over the defence but it was charged down by Charlie Thacker, who booted the loose ball forward for Jonah Holmes to pick up and score.
Two penalties from Burns put Bath on the board before an excellent touch-finder from Hardwick secured a line-out five metres from the try-line.
From there, Leicester won possession for Adam Thompstone to join the drive and touch down for Hardwick to convert.
Trailing 17-6, the hosts looked in trouble but two pieces of skill from Burns kept them in contention.
First, a well-judged pass created space for Matt Banahan, who sent Josh Bayliss on a run deep into the Leicester 22 before the flanker was hauled down. The ball was recycled for an alert Burns to kick over the Tigers’ defence and collect to score a superb try.
After the restart, Burns kicked his third penalty but a creative run from Olowofela and a neat offload presented the lively Holmes with his second.
Burns succeeded with another kick but Tigers wouldn’t lie down as clever interplay from Hardwick and Simmonds created the bonus try for Ben White.
However Bath’s forward power finally told as the Tigers’ pack was shunted backwards for Zach Mercer to pounce, before Joe Maksymiw was yellow carded for pulling down a maul and the Leicester scrum wilted under a continuous onslaught to concede the match-winner.
Comeback: Freddie Burns scores Bath’s opening try
Threat: Tigers’ Harry Simmons makes a break