Rugby Union: Liley pulls plug on tepid Bath

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The Independent Online
Leicester. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

Bath . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

BATH lost their unbeaten record in the Courage Club Championship to a Leicester side who refused to lie down after trailing for three-quarters of a bitterly contested match.

With only two minutes left, the unflappable John Liley kicked the decisive penalty to take the rejuvenated Tigers ahead after Bath had seemed to be well in control for most of the game.

The victory takes Leicester to within two points of Bath at the top of the table and opens up a championship which looked as though it might have been all over by Christmas.

Bath had rested Jonathan Callard, Jeremy Guscott and Ben Clarke - all likely to figure in England's match against the All Blacks next Saturday - but the strength of their squad was reflected in the quality of the replacements; Andy Robinson, Philip de Glanville and David Egerton.

After three minutes, Liley opened the scoring for Leicester when Bath killed the ball in front of their posts following a half-break down the middle by Stuart Potter. But Stuart Barnes swiftly hit back with a well-struck penalty from wide on the right.

However, it was not much of an advertisement for the English game from the top two clubs, with both sides relying almost exclusively on the up and under, although both defences remained solid under pressure.

Bath gradually took hold of the game and went ahead after 25 minutes following their best period of sustained pressure, with Victor Ubogu twice involved in typically headstrong charges. Leicester were eventually penalised for killing the ball and Barnes kicked the penalty from wide on the left.

Only three points down at the interval, Leicester realised that they would never have a better chance of beating Bath and raised their game. But like true champions Bath soaked up the pressure and established a clear territorial advantage, while never really threatening the Leicester line.

After 59 minutes, Jez Harris, whose kicking until then had been undistinguished, found his range and brought the scores level with a snap drop goal from 30 metres. Fired up, the Tigers launched a tremendous forward drive on the Bath line but perhaps unwisely opted for a kick rather than a tapped penalty when they were illegally stopped. Liley was well wide with the resultant kick.

However, Leicester refused to give up and with only two minutes to go found the reserves to unleash an impressive rolling maul which took them 30 metres to the Bath line. When the ball was finally released, Harris attempted another dropped goal which was charged down. Bath were judged to have been offside and Liley kicked a simple penalty to put Leicester ahead 9-6.

There was one final twist. In the second minute of injury time Barnes had the chance to save a point for Bath but put the penalty kick narrowly wide from 40 metres. Time had run out for the champions.

Leicester: Penalties Liley 2; Drop goal Harris. Bath: Penalties Barnes 2.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, R Underwood, T Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, D Richards, N Back.

Bath: A Lumsden; J Swift, M Catt, P de Glanville, M Lloyd; S Barnes, R Hill; G Chilcott, G Dawe, V Ubogu, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, D Egerton, J Hall.

Referee: J Pearson (Durham).

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