Planet Rugby

Tigers roar back to beat Bath

04th January 2009 15:29

Share:

Dan Hipkiss Leicester Bath

Mind the gap: Leicester centre Dan Hipkiss takes on the Bath defence

Leicester Tigers came back from the dead to record an epic if ill-tempered 24-22 victory over Bath at Welford Road on Sunday, with the boot of Derick Hougaard cancelling out three tries from the visitors.

Bath outscored their hosts three tries to two, but Hougaard kicked 14 points from four penalties and a match-winning conversion to overturn a 22-9 deficit.

Stuart Hooper, Pieter Dixon and Joe Maddock all breached Leicester's defence, yet the defeat ruined any chance Bath had of catching league leaders London Irish.

For much of the game, Tigers played as though they were preoccupied by continued speculation about the future of their head coach Heyneke Meyer.

Meyer recently flew home to South Africa because of family illness - but there are suggestions he might not return to the Midlands.

Meyer, who masterminded the Blue Bulls' Super 14 title triumph in 2007 and only became Leicester boss last summer, has handed caretaker coaching duties to his Leicester assistant Richard Cockerill.

And former Leicester front-row warrior Cockerill could only wince at Bath's degree of control for most of the match, which was underlined when Maddock scored a superb 56th-minute try.

Fly-half Butch James, Bath's most dominant player, kicked two conversions and a penalty to leave Leicester in all kinds of strife before Croft sparked an unexpected revival by touching down 14 minutes from time.

Leicester ultimately prevailed, digging deep into their renowned reserves of character after seeing England centre Dan Hipkiss stretchered off nursing what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

Both sides were hit by late withdrawals, as Tigers went into battle minus their New Zealand import Scott Hamilton and England international number eight Jordan Crane.

Johne Murphy replaced Hamilton, while Craig Newby took over from Crane, with Bath losing lock Justin Harrison and skipper Michael Lipman because of stomach bugs.

Both players featured on the bench - they were replaced by Hooper and James Scaysbrook, respectively - as Bath targeted their eighth victory of the Premiership campaign.

Hougaard, starting instead of a rested Toby Flood, kicked Leicester ahead through an early long-range penalty, but Bath forged ahead just four minutes later.

James powered into the heart of Leicester's defence, and with Tigers stretched, Hooper claimed a close-range touchdown that James converted.

The score was deserved reward for Bath's far greater sense of adventure, and they should have scored again 11 minutes later after Hougaard missed drop-goal and penalty chances.

James' superbly-weighted kick created a golden chance, but Bath's rugby league recruit Shontayne Hape knocked on with the line at his mercy.

Hougaard cut the deficit through a 30th-minute penalty, but James then found his range five minutes later as Bath ended a half they dominated 15-6 ahead.

Hougaard's third penalty reduced the Bath advantage to six points, and both coaches began to ring the changes, with Leicester skipper Martin Corry among those replaced.

Former England hooker George Chuter was among those who appeared off the Leicester bench, which sparked a spell of Tigers pressure as they looked to erase Bath's lead.

But with the pressure mounting, so Bath conjured a memorable try thanks to James' invigorating approach.

Instead of taking a safety-first option of kicking to touch, the South African chased his own clearance into space, found Maddock in support and then exchanged passes with the New Zealander before Maddock touched down.

James slotted the touchline conversion for good measure, taking Bath 13 points clear and in pursuit of a try-scoring bonus point.

But Leicester finished with a nine-point scoring burst, sealing the deal during injury time when Tom Croft claimed his second try and Hougaard landed a match-winning conversion.

And right on the whistle, Harrison was sin-binned, underlining a startling Bath demise as the overwhelming majority in a capacity 17,948 crowd roared Leicester home.

The scorers:

For Leicester Tigers:

Tries: Croft 2

Cons: Hougaard 2

Pens: Hougaard 3

For Bath:

Tries: Hooper, Dixon, Maddock

Con: James

Pens: James 2

Yellow card(s): Harrison (Bath) - fighting, 79

The teams:

Leicester Tigers:15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Danny Hipkiss, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Matt Smith, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Craig Newby, 7 Lewis Moody, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Ben Kay, 4 Martin Corry (c), 3 Julian White, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Boris Stankovich.

Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Martin Castrogiovanni, 18 Marco Wentzel, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Seru Rabeni, 22 Tom Varndell.

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Andrew Higgins, 10 Butch James, 9 Scott Bemand, 8 Daniel Browne, 7 Michael Lipman (c), 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Peter Short, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 David Barnes.

Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Justin Harrison, 19 Jonny Faamatuainu, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 22 Jack Cuthbert.

Referee: Chris White

Touch judges: Stuart Terheege, Paul Dix

Television match official: Brian Abrahams, Graham Hughes

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Heineken Cup
Saturday , April 26
Saracens vs Clermont Auvergne15:40
Sunday , April 27
Toulon vs Munster15:30
More Heineken Cup fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , April 26
Glasgow vs EdinburghGlasgow vs Edinburgh Preview
Thursday , May 1
Zebre vs Ospreys17:00
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Amlin Challenge Cup
Friday , April 25
Northampton vs HarlequinsNorthampton vs Harlequins Preview
Sunday , April 27
Wasps vs Bath13:00
More Amlin Challenge Cup fixtures
Super Rugby
Friday , April 25
Blues vs WaratahsBlues vs Waratahs Preview
Brumbies vs ChiefsBrumbies vs Chiefs Preview
Sharks vs HighlandersSharks vs Highlanders Preview
Saturday , April 26
Hurricanes vs RedsHurricanes vs Reds Preview
Western Force vs Bulls17:40
Cheetahs vs StormersCheetahs vs Stormers Preview
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 20
Northampton 36 - 21 London IrishNorthampton vs London Irish Report
Newcastle 18 - 23 SaracensNewcastle vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Cardiff Blues 17 - 13 ScarletsCardiff Blues vs Scarlets Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 10 - 20 Ospreys
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , April 19
Bath 32 - 20 WorcesterBath vs Worcester Report
Exeter 12 - 55 SaleExeter vs Sale Report
Wasps 38 - 30 GloucesterWasps vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Zebre 26 - 13 EdinburghZebre vs Edinburgh Report
Connacht 23 - 32 MunsterConnacht vs Munster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Oyonnax 19 - 19 ToulouseOyonnax vs Toulouse Report
Biarritz 19 - 13 Brive
Perpignan 31 - 46 ToulonPerpignan vs Toulon Report
Racing Metro Paris 22 - 6 Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Stade Francais 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Grenoble 21 - 21 Bayonne
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 17 - 18 CrusadersChiefs vs Crusaders Report
Sharks 19 - 8 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
Waratahs 19 - 12 BullsWaratahs vs Bulls Report
Stormers 18 - 3 LionsStormers vs Lions Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins 24 - 20 LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Leinster 62 - 7 Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Report
Glasgow 27 - 9 UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Castres 22 - 15 MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 39 - 20 BluesHurricanes vs Blues Report
Melbourne Rebels 22 - 16 Western Force
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens2080
2Northampton2071
3Bath2064
4Leicester Tigers2064
5Harlequins2058