Leicester made a significant Guinness Premiership statement against their old rivals Bath as they won 43-20 at Welford Road.
Leicester made a significant Guinness Premiership statement against their old rivals Bath as they won 43-20 at Welford Road on Saturday.
Alesana Tuilagi ran in the first try with just 26 seconds on the clock and Bath, given a rough time by the Tigers pack, looked a pale shadow of the team that had rattled off seven successive league wins.
By the break they were 25-13 behind after conceding two more tries to Tuilagi and lock Geoff Parling. Second-half scores by Anthony Allen and a penalty try confirmed the Tigers' superiority. Bath could only muster a try in each half by wings Joe Maddock and Matt Banahan.
Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy returned from injury to lead the Tigers and there were also recalls for prop Martin Castrogiovanni and lock Louis Deacon in the front five as the home team went in search of an eighth victory in nine Premiership outings.
Bath's record looked just as impressive with seven straight wins in the league following their victory over Harlequins last weekend.
With David Flatman and Luke Watson ruled out of their pack through injury, there were recalls for David Barnes at loosehead prop and Ben Skirving at number eight as they pressed their claims for a play-off spot.
Leicester were gifted the best possible start when Shontayne Hape was robbed of the ball by Matt Smith and a quick pass gave Tuilagi a simple run-in from half-way. Fly-half Toby Flood converted from wide out on the left.
Olly Barkley quickly pulled back three points with a penalty but it was all Leicester at this stage and Flood, after missing a 40-metre effort, restored the seven-point lead from short-range.
Bath were winning no popularity contests with referee Sean Davey and on 16 minutes he issued a warning to skipper Michael Claassens for repeated infringements. Flood's penalty set up a line-out on the Bath 22 and simple off-the-top ball stretched the visitors' defence before Tuilagi was left with a simple touchdown at the corner, although Flood failed to add the extras.
Bath responded with a 23rd minute try through Maddock. Leicester spilled the ball and the Kiwi winger was quickest to reach the kick-ahead, eluding Lewis Moody to score under the posts. Barkley adding the conversion.
But having battled their way back into the game, the visitors' lost ex-Leicester lock Peter Short to the sin-bin for knocking the ball out of Ben Youngs' hands at the back of a ruck in the 34th minute.
Flood made it 18-10 with the resulting kick but Barkley, one of the few cool heads in the Bath team, replied by knocking over a kick from near halfway.
The visitors would have been happy to go in just five points adrift considering the pressure they had been under, but they lost control of a scrum in their own 22 and Tom Croft's surge to the posts made space for a third try in injury time for Parling. Flood's conversion sent his team in at the break with a 25-13 lead.
Bath reappeared without Barkley, replaced by Australian Matt Carraro, and Tigers took advantage within three minutes, sending Anthony Allen in at the corner for the bonus point try. Flood's conversion and a third penalty on 47 minutes established a 20-point lead and the Tigers took their foot off the pedal.
Bath fought back with a 54th minute Banahan try, courtesy of a neat flick pass by fly-half Butch James, who also added the conversion.
Flood's fourth penalty roused the Tigers for a final effort as the Bath scrum buckled on their own line to concede a 75th minute penalty try. Flood's conversion took his personal tally to 18 points and rounded off a dominant display from the reigning champions.
Tries: Tuilagi 2, Parling, Allen, Penalty
Con: Flood 3
Pen: Flood 4
Tries: Maddock, Banahan
Con: Barkley, James
Pen: Barkley 2
Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy (c), 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Lewis Moody, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Mefin Davies, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Dan Cole, 18 Boris Stankovich, 19 Ben Kay, 20 Craig Newby, 21 James Grindal, 22 Jeremy Staunton, 23 Johne Murphy.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Shontayne Hape, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens (capt), 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Stuart Hooper, 4 Peter Short, 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Barnes.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Danny Grewcock, 20 Jonny Faamatuainu, 21 Scott Bemand, 22 Nicky Little, 23 Matt Carraro.
Referee: Sean Davey
Assistant referees: Alan Biggs, Roger Baileff
TMO: Brian Abrahams