Another weekend, another trophy chase but the EDF Energy Cup does not quite have the same ring as the World Cup.
The Anglo-Welsh competition – this was Group B which also includes Cardiff and Sale – is viewed by some as a fly-half in the ointment but last season's final, between Leicester and the Ospreys at Twickenham, was an absolute cracker. Yesterday the Tigers, the defending champions, lost their opening match by two goals and two penalties to a goal and three penalties.
So, after the Lord Mayor's show in Paris, what did the spectator get for his money? Quite a lot, actually. Of the returning heroes from France only one, Steve Borthwick, the Bath captain, was on duty, though it was two if you included Nick Abendanon, the Bath full-back, who flew to France as a late replacement.
Not that that meant a thing. The two clubs showed they have considerable strength in depth for the understudies, if they can be described as such, produced a minor classic.
This is turning out to be a campaign of great promise for Bath, who were such a letdown last season. They have lost only one match – at Leicester in the Guinness Premiership – and yesterday revenge was a dish served as hot as chestnuts.
Bath were in trouble when they trailed 11-3 on 27 minutes, after Sam Vesty sold a dummy and touched down despite Tom Cheeseman's tackle following an impressive right-to-left move. Ryan Davis, the Bath stand-off, had opened the scoring with a penalty in the fourth minute but his opposite number, Ian Humphreys, was threatening to take control of the match.
Leicester have three stand-offs – Andy Goode, Paul Burke and the Northern Irishman, Humphreys. The latter, the brother of the Ulster and Ireland No 10 David, showed what he is capable of here with a performance of some quality.
A lovely little half-break in the sixth minute resulted in a penalty which he kicked and then he thumped over a monster from the halfway line after Marco Wentzel , the South African lock, had been impeded at a line-out. Vesty's try meant that Bath had to respond, and quickly.
Davis cut the deficit with a penalty and Bath threw everything into getting a try as the first half drew to a close. Somehow, Vesty and Johne Murphy prevented Michael Stephenson from going over in the left-hand corner. But Leicester could not escape at the resultant scrum. When Bath were mounting a pushover, Frank Murphy pinched the ball from the back row and the referee, Ashley Rowden, awarded a penalty try to give the home side a 13-11 half-time lead.
There were several close decisions which would have been referred to a video official if there had been television cameras here. Instead the referee had to make his own calls, and a pretty good job he made of it.
Leicester, who are awaiting the arrival of their new coach, Marcello Loffreda, the man who worked such wonders with Argentina in the World Cup, regained the lead in the opening minute of the second half, a Humphreys penalty going over via an upright.
Again Bath refused to lie down, and their replacements had more of an impact than Leicester's. Bath introduced the Samoan Jonny Faamatuainu into their back row, the experienced Shaun Berne at stand-off and the giant Matt Banahan on the left wing. All three played their part.
Banahan, a former hockey player who stands 6ft 7in, produced a sublime bit of skill in the 62nd minute when he dummied an inside pass. The defence bought it and Banahan went cruising down the left touchline, only to lose possession as he crossed the Leicester line.
Trailing by a point, Bath would not be denied. Cheeseman, chasing a chip, came within inches of a try as he crashed into the advertising hoarding but in the 69th minute Alex Crockett produced a flash of genius. Receiving the ball just outside the Leicester 22, the centre produced an amazing run which took him past four defenders for a try at the posts. Game, set and match.
While the Stade de France, the venue for last week's World Cup final, hosted a match between Clermont Auvergne and Stade Français, the attendance here was limited to 10,555. Bath could have sold twice as many tickets but they have wrestled with the problem of the Recreation Ground, which is not theirs to develop, for so long the Romans were probably aware of it. "We are hopeful that a decision will be forthcoming this year," Bob Calleja, the chief executive, said.
Bath: N Abendanon; A Higgins, A Crockett, T Cheeseman, M Stephenson (M Banahan, 59); R Davis (S Berne, 52), M Claassens; D Flatman, R Hawkins, P Ion, S Borthwick (capt), P Short, A Beattie, D Browne, J Scaysbrook (J Faamatuainu, 57).
Leicester: S Vesty; J Murphy, A Erinle, M Cornwell (T Youngs, 44), T Varndell; I Humphreys, F Murphy; D Cole (M Ayerza, 44), M Davies (capt), D Young (A Moreno, 44), R Blaze (J Hamilton, 54), M Wentzel, T Croft, J Crane, L Abraham.
Referee: A Rowden (England).Reuse content