Bath 27 Leicester Tigers 20 match report: George Ford returns to haunt injury-plagued champions

But Tigers depart the West Country with a crucial bonus point and will be happy with the afternoon's work

It fell to George Ford, the fly-half who a few months ago was playing in a winning Premiership final for Leicester, to knock over the decisive points for Bath at the last knockings of this punishing meeting of century-old rivals. But somehow there was a sense that the champions, depleted and defeated, will have more to be satisfied with when the bruises ease.

The political backdrop could not be ignored. The Bath owner/chairman Bruce Craig lives in France and has been the principal go-between with the French clubs in their discussions with the English about ditching European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC) and organising a new cross-border competition not run by the national unions. “The hour is grave,” Craig wrote in the match programme, and matters may be finally coming to a head, if only for the simple fact that the end of this season, when the old ERC accord expires, is a few months closer than it was at the end of last season. “If the Unions in the coming weeks do not approve the competitions, through regulatory process,” wrote Craig, “it will no doubt destroy European rugby and have catastrophic financial implications for Celtic and Italian rugby.”

Back to more parochial matters, and one wonders how much the bullish Premiership clubs’ salary cap, unchanged this season from last, might rise next year when the BT broadcasting funding kicks in. Leicester are already well stocked - just as well because yesterday they had seven England players injured among 13 missing overall either unfit or on international duty. Bath’s emerging star Kyle Eastmond was another crock from weekend one but they knew what a great chance this was to take points off their old rivals. Two tries and a 21-3 lead from the first half went a long way to confirming it, although Leicester had plenty of territory and shot themselves in the foot more than once.

With their banned coach Richard Cockerill watching from a box at one end of the Rec, Leicester led 3-0 with a penalty by David Mele but the French scrum-half had a difficult half as he was penalised by referee Greg Garner for pushing his opposite number Peter Stringer at a scrum and a crooked feed. Bath’s fly-half George Ford might have been wearing the Leicester No.10 jersey had he not switched clubs in the summer – ironically the man blocking his progress at Welford Road, Toby Flood, was among yesterday’s absentees – and after a wobbly start the 20-year-old played confidently and with some style, save for one loose clearing kick in the 33rd minute that almost allowed Adam Thompstone, returning it cleverly with a chip and chase, to score for Leicester. The wing was held up by a brave, not to say relieved Ford.

By that point Bath led 13-3 after Ford kicked two penalties and converted a 65-metre interception try for Jonathan Joseph who picked off an unnecessarily elaborate long pass by Ford;s opposite number Ryan Lamb, aimed at Sebastian de Chaves. A swinging arm by Logo Mulipola and a pull-down of a maul by Tom Youngs had Leicester down to 13 men as the half closed with another Ford penalty and a counter-attacking try for the bullocking Matt Banahan down the left, made by Semesa Rokoduguni seizing on Lamb’s hopeful grubber and Gavin Henson’s pass.

Henson has always been adept at spotting and using space; less so at identifying trouble in social situations and avoiding it. Playing in Eastmond’s place, the Welshman defended where he needed to and watched happily like the rest of the Rec as Bath regularly drove a Leicester pack lacking the ballast and nous of Marcos Ayerza, Louis Deacon, Geoff Parling and Tom Croft back in the scrum.

Leicester have not reached the past nine finals without huge reserves of heart and resourcefulness. Lamb’s cross kick seized on the impressive Thompstone made a try for Steve Mafi in the 47th minute. Another attack soon after finished with a weak pass by Anthony Allen, captain for the day. But the Tigers kept coming. Lamb was held on the dart but Mele probed the short side, via the south African lock De Chaves, to Ed Slater to score in the corner and Mele converted brilliantly to haul Bath in to 21-15.

Bath made many changes; they launched big runners up the middle. Ford kicked a 45-metre penalty for a ruck offence. But they were breached again when Leicester went the width of the field, left to right, and Thompstone slipped a neat scoring pass to Niki Goneva, helped by Bath’s Tom Biggs rushing to defend the wrong man.

Mele missed a penalty from halfway that would have cut the gap to a point. Bath, emboldened, trusted to the heavy mob. A catch and drive drew Slater, contentiously, into an in-at-the-side that Ford’s missed penalty failed to punish. But repeated pick-and-goes sapped Leicester’s strength and eked out another penalty for killing the ball and Ford chipped over an easy kick in front of the posts with a minute remaining.

Mike Ford, the Bath head coach and father of George, said: "Credit to Leicester, they've played nine grand finals and squeezed us in the second half. I'm pleased for George because there was a lot of pressure on him today. I;m pleased that he's come through it and we've got the win. It's not just about him, we're a young team and we're going to get better, without question." With a second win to add to Newcastle away last week, was Ford junior's motivation to prove Leicester wrong or show Bath's support he should be their main man? "George's motivation was to be the best team player for Bath, that was all," said Mike.

Line-ups:

Bath: A Watson; S Rokoduguni, J Joseph (T Biggs 64), G Henson, M Banahan; G Ford, P Stringer (M Young 50); P James (N Catt 50), R Webber (R Batty 50), D Wilson (A Perenise 50), S Hooper (capt, D Day 50), D Attwood, M Garvey, G Mercer (A Fa’osiliva 62), L Houston.

Leicester Tigers: N Morris (O Williams 64); S Hamilton (N Briggs 42-47, D Bowden 50), V Goneva, A Allen (capt), A Thompstone; R Lamb, D Mele; L Mulipola, T Youngs, D Cole, E Slater, S de Chaves, S Mafi (B Stankovich 31-40, T Waldrom 63), J Salvi, J Crane (J Gibson 73).

Referee: G Garner (London).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game