Planet Rugby

Leicester pull the plug on Bath

16th May 2010 12:26

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Martin Castrogiovanni Leicester Bath

Green Giant: Martin Castrogiovanni takes the fight to Bath

Leicester Tigers booked a date with Saracens in the Guinness Premiership Final courtesy of a 15-6 win over Bath at Welford Road on Sunday.

A full 12 league points separated these two teams in the regular season, but when push came to shove it took just five penalties from the boot of Toby Flood to cancel out two from Olly Barkley.

Bath and Leicester grinding out a tryless 15-6 results sounds terribly old school, and indeed it was. As the clock ticked towards its end, the familiar red and green stripes of boa constrictrix leicesterius grew tight around the visitors' necks. Eventual death was all but inevitable.

The Tigers now head for Twickenham for an occasion that is likely to have a bit of spice after Sarries ended Leicester's proud unbeaten home record - one which had stretched back to September 2008 - just last weekend.

The aftermath of that game also saw Saracens rugby director Brendan Venter charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game after allegedly pushing a female Leicester supporter and making inappropriate comments and gestures to spectators at Welford Road. His disciplinary hearing takes place in London on Tuesday.

Defeat for Bath means they remain without a win at the home of their bitter rivals since November 2003, with their only two defeats in their last 13 Premiership fixtures coming at Welford Road.

Leicester made three changes from the side beaten last time out with Flood back at fly-half. Lock Louis Deacon and number eight Jordan Crane also returned.

Bath, meanwhile, preferred Australian Matt Carraro to England squad member Shontayne Hape at centre.

The game opened at a frantic pace and Bath fullback Nick Abendanon came close to gathering an intelligent Butch James chip, before hooker Lee Mears broke through in a promising opening from Steve Meehan's side.

And Barkley, who was named in the England squad for next month's tour of Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday, rewarded that attacking endeavour by claiming the game's first points with a 12th-minute penalty after the Tigers were penalised for hands in the ruck.

But the centre was off target with a difficult effort from near the left touchline five minutes later.

Bath's growing confidence was exemplified by two very strong nudges at consecutive scrums and from one of them giant wing Matt Banahan was hauled down just short of the line by Scott Hamilton after taking a short pass from James.

Barkley added his second penalty at the end of an absorbing opening quarter but Flood got the Tigers on the board with a three-pointer of his own in the 23rd minute.

Leicester turned to their forward power with a series of driving mauls close to the Bath line putting the visitors under intense pressure.

But a brave defensive effort, led by lock Stuart Hooper, saw the West Countrymen clear their lines.

The hosts pulled level when prop Martin Castrogiovanni won a penalty at a scrum and Flood was successful from around the 40-metre mark, although referee Chris White had to call on the video referee to adjudicate after his assistants Paul Dix and Dave Pearson were unable to determine if the ball had gone over the posts.

Leicester began the second half in purposeful mood with Flood and Anthony Allen kicking them deep into Bath territory.

And they should have taken the lead after a lovely flip pass when in retreat from Flood saw Alesana Tuilagi find some space, but the Samoa cap failed to find fellow winger Scott Hamilton who was free outside him.

Another powerful Leicester attack saw Mears flop over the ball to concede a 55th minute penalty, but Flood was off target from wide on the right.

But the England fly-half took full advantage when Castrogiovanni again proved too much for David Flatman to handle at a scrum, bisecting the uprights from 45 metres to give Leicester the lead for the first time.

And he added to his tally again in the 64th minute with his fourth successful penalty.

Further scrum problems followed for the visitors, who were being forced to try and play their way out from deep such was the home side's territorial dominance, and Flood again punished them with eight minutes remaining.

Barkley was then off target from a difficult angle with five minutes remaining as Leicester eased through the closing minutes to secure a trip to Twickenham.

Man of the match: A typically titanic performance from Leicester's pack. Bath managed to stand toe to toe for the first hour, but the old heads within the local ranks managed to snuff out the rebellion, with the outstanding Martin Castrogiovanni making the day's best impersonation of the products championed by his side's jersey sponsor.

The scorers:

For Leicester Tigers:
Pens: Flood 5

For Bath:
Pens: Barkley 2

The teams:

Leicester Tigers: 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 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Joe Duffey, 17 Dan Cole, 18 Boris Stankovich, 19 Craig Newby, 20 Ben Woods, 21 James Grindal, 22 Jeremy Staunton, 23 Johne Murphy.

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens (c), 8 Luke Watson, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 David Barnes, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Peter Short, 20 Ben Skirving, 21 Mike Baxter, 22 Ryan Davis, 23 Shontayne Hape.

Referee: Chris White
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Dave Pearson
TMO: David Hudson, David Matthews

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