Leicester crush old rivals Bath
March 26, 2011
Leicester crush old rivals Bath%]
Leicester strengthened their grip at the top of the Aviva Premiership table with a 37-6 bonus point victory over Bath at The Rec.
Fly-half Toby Flood and flanker Tom Croft both grabbed two tries but a sensational score from centre Anthony Allen was the pick of the bunch as the clinical Tigers handed their old rivals their biggest home defeat in the history of the Premiership and moved seven points clear of second-placed Saracens. A resurgent Flood also weighed in with two penalties and three conversions but it was his half-back partner Ben Youngs who collected the Man of the Match honour after rediscovering the game-breaking form that had deserted him on the international stage in recent weeks.
Flood, Youngs, Croft and prop Dan Cole all returned from Six Nations duty for Tigers, but injuries sidelined England lock Louis Deacon and Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni. Bath, meanwhile, paraded England's Matt Banahan on the wing, with former Leicester back Sam Vesty lining up in midfield as replacement for Olly Barkley, who broke his leg against Gloucester three weeks ago.
Bath dominated much of the first half of the contest but failed to take their chances, with two Butch James penalties their only reward at the end of a bruising encounter which, along with other results, sees them slip to seventh in the Premiership table.
Bath began brightly and centre Ben Williams exploited a big gap in the Leicester defence before a knock on brought an end to the move. But they were soon back on the front foot with hooker Lee Mears and prop David Flatman earning some hard yards inside the Tigers' 22 before lock Stuart Hooper attempted to force his way over from close range only to spill the ball in the tackle. Leicester coughed up possession as they attempted to run the ball out but Bath lacked the precision to capitalise.
A clever kick through from centre Vesty then threatened to carve the Tigers open but the bounce evaded the on-rushing Banahan before a crunching tackle from Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi flattened Bath fullback Nick Abendanon. It was then Bath's turn to scramble the ball away after Leicester prop Marcos Ayerza surged into the hosts' 22 following a lineout and at the next scrum the Tigers were rewarded with a penalty that Flood slotted to open the scores - against the run of play.
There was no let up in the physical nature of the action and it took the combined efforts of Flood and Croft to deny Bath prop Duncan Bell after a strong run had seen him close in on the corner. Leicester's reply was swift and sensational. Allen picked the ball up midway inside his own half and shrugged off a couple of poor tackles as he crossed into Bath territory. But he was not finished there with an injection of pace and a show and go leaving the cover defence flat-footed allowing him to coast in for the opening try of the game, which was converted by Flood.
Leicester centre Anthony Allen dives in to score during his side's record victory at The Rec © Getty Images
Another big tackle on Abendanon - this time from Alesana Tuilagi - warranted a word from referee Dave Pearson and the penalty allowed Bath to take the game deep into the Leicester half. Bath peppered the Leicester line and when Tigers lock Ed Slater was sin-binned for playing the ball at the ruck the resulting penalty allowed James to put his side on the board.
Bath scrum-half Michael Claassens was the next to benefit from some questionable defence with a great break off a lineout but Banahan was unable to hold onto the pass as another chance went begging. In contrast, Leicester were at their clinical best in the next passage of play to take a firm grip on the game. Lock Steve Mafi leapt high at a lineout before feeding Youngs and the lively No.9 then darted through a gap and drew the defence. Croft then loomed up on his shoulder and collected the ball before speeding away to score his side's second try. Flood added the extras and the Tigers were soon back to full strength with the return of Slater.
The home side raised their game again as the half drew to a close with flanker Ben Skirving and Hooper making an impression in the Leicester 22. The Tigers held out but tempers boiled over as play broke down with the penalty going Bath's way. James opted to kick for the corner but the gamble did not pay off with Leicester's defence snuffing out the danger.
Abendanon bounced back from yet another thumping tackle to spark Bath's next break but not for the first time they lacked the ability to find a scoring pass and once again they were made to pay. A great break from Youngs exposed Bell and Hooper for pace and he stormed into the Bath 22 before feeding Flood on his outside for a simple score. Flood could only hit the post with his conversion but the Tigers were firmly in control as the sides headed into the break.
Bath's industry brought reward early in the second half in the form of a James penalty but some excellent handling in the build-up from captain Luke Watson and Bell arguably deserved more.
Leicester were not so wasteful and picked up the tempo of the game to devastating effect in the form of the bonus point try. Youngs and Flood were once again the architects, with the fly-half rounding off the move after his forward pack had lent their considerable weight to proceedings inside the 22. Flood was wide with the conversion attempt but was on target with a penalty soon after to heap woe on the hosts.
Bath continued to battle but there was more trouble ahead. A wild pass inside the Leicester half fell kindly for Croft, who picked his way through a tiring Bath defence before racing away for his side's fifth try. Flood added the simple extras before popping up in defence to force Williams into touch as he looked to snipe down the touchline.
Tempers flared once again after a dubious tackle from James on Leicester replacement Ben Woods with the puzzling end result a yellow card for the Argentinean duo of Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and Horacio Agulla. But it failed to quell the fire in James, who took offence to a tackle from Woods on Tom Biggs a few minutes later before escaping punishment himself for a high tackle on Jordan Crane. But that was as much fight as the hosts could muster as Leicester closed out a very impressive win.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
When the Lions toured South Africa in 1974, some thought rugby could break down barriers. But John Taylor refused to make the trip altogether
"I think in a couple of seasons London Irish can be a genuine force and contenders for the Premiership." Tom Hamilton talks to Brian Smith
"I hate this talk of survival, we are going there to compete." Tom Hamilton talks to London Welsh's Justin Burnell and Matt Corker
The latest Week in Pictures takes in Madagascar, Nick Cummins and all the latest photographs from Super Rugby