Rugby Union: Tigers rue letting Catt out of the bag

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The Independent Online
Bath 20 Leicester 20 Even if they were on foot and horseback, the Romans had an easier journey to Bath than Tony Underwood. The fleet- footed England wing, who set off from St Albans, another historic landmark, spent four and a half hours on various motorways and threw the big match into a state of confusion. This was manifestly not a sign of the game's so-called professionalism.

The kick off was originally scheduled for 3pm. When Sky switched their cameras to the Recreation Ground they wanted a 2.15 start. Bath agreed on a compromise of 2.30, but that was put back by 10 minutes as Leicester waited in vain for Underwood's arrival. The men at Sky were not over the moon about the delay, although in the end Leicester provided them with an interesting script and a neat punchline.

By the time Underwood - he swapped seats with his girlfriend so he could do some stretching exercises in the car - arrived on the touchline, the game was 20 minutes old. Jamie Hamilton, a scrum-half, had taken Underwood's place on the right wing and it was he who scored Leicester's only try to give the match its 20-20 vision.

Bath have been showing signs of vulnerability and they regarded this as a lost opportunity after leading 17-9 a minute into the second half. Brian Ashton, who afterwards had the ear of Jack Rowell, the England manager and his Bath predecessor, said: 'I'm bitterly disappointed that we let them back in. We lost our concentration in the second half and there was a lack of quality set-piece possession.'

The result, which ensured both clubs maintained their unbeaten record, was fair and Ashton hit the nail on the head when he said: 'It's just as well that the quality of Leicester's back play didn't match the quality of their forwards.' Therein lies Leicester's problem. Apart from when they meet Bath at home, they will probably not have a better chance of undermining the champions.

When the Tigers had a brilliant threequarter line - Cusworth, Dodge etc - their pack was suspect. Now they have an impressive eight with no weaknesses -Darren Garforth was particularly effective - but they have not got a Cusworth to make things happen. Jez Harris has taken on the Dusty Hare role of accumulating points through kicks but otherwise he is limited, as are his centres.

For the most part, Rory Underwood's opportunities were confined to scavenging in midfield, a particularly fruitless area of attack against Bath. It was left to Dean Richards, who put in another towering performance, to create the try that brought Leicester level. Andy Robinson had just left the field with a sprung rib and, without his spoiling presence, Neil Back won a line-out and Richards was twice involved before delivering a perfectly timed pass.

Bath had taken the lead with a well-worked try from Tony Swift after Adedayo Adebayo, in a move that was more Rowell than Ashton, came in from the left wing to breach the midfield defence. By the time John Liley had taken out Jeremy Guscott, there was nobody left to stop Swift. This was a far more convincing performance from Guscott than his comeback match against West Hartlepool and one classic outside break signified that the sharpness is returning.

Bath, who led 10-9 at half- time, caught Leicester with a sucker punch immediately on the resumption when Mike Catt shot through a gap and scored at the posts. The Tigers let him out of the bag, for Harris never laid a hand on him and Stuart Potter simply stuck out his left arm.

Bath and Leicester - between them they enabled Rowell to keep tabs on 16 international players on Saturday - are clear at the top, but Ashton said: 'I don't see it as a two-horse race. We will have a lot of international calls after Christmas and I'm going to have to work a rota system.'

As for Tony Underwood, the day was not entirely wasted. He signed autographs on the way back to his car. 'I'm getting out of here quickly before Leicester lynch me,' he said. The end of British Summer Time came too late to save him.

Bath: Tries Swift, Catt; Conversions Callard 2; Penalties Callard 2.

Leicester: Try Hamilton; Penalties Harris 5.

Bath: J Callard; T Swift, P de Glanville, J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, I Sanders; D Hilton, G Dawe, V Ubogu, N Redman, A Reed, A Robinson (T Beddow, 69), B Clarke, J Hall (capt).

Leicester: J Liley; J Hamilton, D Edwards, S Potter, R Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, T Smith, J Wells, D Richards (capt), N Back.

Referee: J Pearson (Yarm, Cleveland).