Francois Louw's late try led Bath to a famous 27-26 victory over bitter rivals Leicester Tigers at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.
Francois Louw's late try led Bath to a rapturous 27-26 victory over Leicester Tigers at The Rec on Saturday.
Both sides made the most of excellent conditions at The Rec in the opening 40 minutes, with no shortage of ambition and intent on display as Leicester looked to secure their home semi-final ahead of the Premiership playoffs.
In a throwback to the tense clashes between the two sides of yesteryear, Bath and Leicester produced thrilling finishes to prove that the gap between the two sides might not be as wide as many believe it to be.
A frenetic first half saw Bath's Simon Taylor grab the first of five first-half tries, the former Scotland number eight crashing over the line the day after it was announced that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season.
Leicester and England flanker Tom Croft then hit back with a fine finish of his own, leaving his England team-mate David Wilson for dead before sidestepping his way around Bath full-back Ollie Devoto to put the Tigers ahead.
The Tigers open gameplan then cost them, Semesa Rokoduguni intercepting for Bath to run in from 40 metres out and restore the hosts' lead.
A penalty from Flood edged Leicester back in front before Ben Youngs added a sensational solo score – catching the Bath defence unawares by taking a tap penalty before swerving his way upfield for an 80 metre try.
Horacio Agulla countered with a try against his old side, collecting Donald's cross-field chip to go over, with Donald's conversion leaving the score at 19-20 by half-time.
Penalties from replacement Tom Heathcote and Flood added to the scoreboard after the break.
The carefree rugby of the first half though was replaced by an attritional battle, substitutes making an impact from the bench as Bath missed a crucial penalty to narrow the gap to a single point when Heathcote's penalty hit the post.
A breakthrough was on the cards and eventually it came – Francois Louw taking the offload from Perenise before spectacularly diving over in the corner to put Bath ahead, leaving the score at 27-26.
Louw also illustrated his hard work at the breakdown with a crucial turnover from the restart and from there Bath hung on for their best win of the season, in the process keeping their top six hopes alive.
Tries: Taylor, Rokoduguni, Agulla, Louw
Cons: Devoto, Donald
Tries: Croft, Youngs
Cons: Flood 2
Pens: Flood 4
Bath: 15 Ollie Devoto, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Ben Williams, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Francois Louw (c), 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Dominic Day, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Eusebio Guinazu, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Mat Gilbert, 21 Nick Koster, 22 Peter Stringer, 23 Tom Heathcote.
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Matt Smith, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Fraser Balmain, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Dan Bowden, 23 Geordan Murphy.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Ashley Rowden, Andrew Pearce
Television match official: Trevor Fisher
Timekeeper: Laurie Bryant
Assessor: Paul Bridgman