Bath roar their way to Twickenham

Date published: May 23 2015

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Bath thrashed their old rivals Leicester 47-10 with an outstanding attacking performance, scoring seven tries in the Premiership semi-final.

This wasn't quite the 45-0 procession we saw earlier in the campaign but it felt comfortable and authoritative from Bath, who have come on in leaps and bounds this season.

They will head to Twickenham next weekend full of confidence to take on Saracens, with the likes of George Ford and Jonathan Joseph currently playing at the peak of their powers.

Limited in possession throughout the first half, Bath were so clinical and had too much firepower out wide as their forwards held firm in the battle up front.

It took all of two minutes for Bath to treat the crowd to more of the same brilliant attacking rugby we've seen from them all year.

England centre Jonathan Joseph picked his gap and carved through the Leicester defence to find former England winger Matt Banahan on his outside for the opening try.

Folding that easily isn't exactly Leicester's way and they responded with sustained pressure, with both teams having to scramble after having kicks charged down.

Seeing Dan Cole and Stuart Hooper in a sprint was an unusual sight but then Bath were left desperately trying to recover a skidding ball near their own try line, only for JP Doyle to rule in their favour at the ruck.

That came after Freddie Burns had missed a penalty chance by hitting the post. Playing in his first Premiership play-off clash, this was a great chance for Burns to impress after missing out on England's preliminary World Cup squad while going up against the incumbent fly-half and Player of the Season, George Ford.

Ford has had an outstanding season but then again so have several of his Bath team-mates, working collectively under Stuart Hooper's leadership and inspired by the class of Francois Louw.

Leicester controlled the possession for a lengthy period but Bath produced a copycat try, Joseph again getting in behind the defence and feeding Banahan who had a double and couldn't believe his luck.

It didn't seem as though The Rec could get much louder but the best was yet to come. Semesa Rokoduguni, bizarrely discarded by England, beat his opposite man on the outside and then chipped ahead, the bounce falling perfectly for Kyle Eastmond to score Bath's third try and put them up 21-3. Truly beautiful rugby to watch.

Leicester weren't going to go down without a fight though, especially not after the hiding they received here earlier in the season.

Minutes of pressure on Bath's defence finally ended in a try for Tom Youngs – their first at The Rec in over 110 minutes this season – but only after a number of surges at the line, two yellow cards for Anthony Watson and Leroy Houston along with Niall Morris being denied a try in the corner, after the TMO confirmed he lost possession during his dive for the line.

Youngs' score came right on half-time as Bath went in 21-10 ahead, although it should have been more despite Leicester having 63 percent possession in the first half. 

Burns couldn't keep the momentum going after the break as he missed a penalty before a lengthy stoppage occured as Niall Morris was stretchered off with a nasty-looking injury.

The fluidity from the first-half was replaced by a real scrap as Bath did everything to maintain their 11-point advantage.

Something was needed from either side to halt the dipping standard of the match and it came from the excellent Louw, breaking through up the middle and offloading to Peter Stringer for Bath's fourth try and a 28-10 lead with 16 minutes to go.

Ford's own try in the corner came next, a one-two with Rokoduguni, put the icing on the cake – five tries and a 23-point lead being far too much for Leicester to claw back.

Bath might have been spectacular going forward but their defence also deserves praise for its work-rate and commitment, even when the game was decided.

They simply soaked up Leicester's pressure and then hit them on the counter for Banahan to complete his hat-trick, with Ford's conversion bringing up the 40, before Anthony Watson skipped a tackle and strolled over with time up on the clock.

They will need every one of their tricks next week against Saracens. Whatever happens, this was a supreme performance and Bath have been the best team in the Premiership this season. They are now one game away from confirming that with a trophy.

The scorers:

For Bath:
Tries: Banahan 3, Eastmond, Stringer, Ford, Watson
Cons: Ford 6

Yellow Card: Watson, Houston

For Leicester:
Tries: T Youngs
Cons: Burns
Pens: Burns

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Sam Burgess, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Matt Garvey, 21 Carl Fearns, 22 Chris Cook, 23 Ollie Devoto

Leicester: 15 Niall Morris, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Christian Loamanu, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Ed Slater, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 George Catchpole

Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Ashley Rowden
TMO: Graham Hughes

by Ben Coles

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