Bath 27 Leicester Tigers 26 match report: Francois Louw’s late try strengthens Bath’s Heineken Cup push

Tigers undone by inability to subdue committed home side as Tuilagi undermines Lions claims

There cannot have been many bigger cheers heard around what many see as an outdated relic of a stadium than the one the Rec unleashed when Francois Louw kicked through a ruck, and Stephen Donald, the misfit All Black flanker who is soon leaving for Japan, bravely carried the ball away from danger with seemingly half of the Leicester Tigers on his back. In the last seconds of both teams’ penultimate regular-season Premiership match, with implications for the top and middle of the table, it secured a win for Bath that was almost lost through the wobbly goal-kicking of Donald and others.

Those thinking ahead to the British & Irish Lions tour would have lapped up another of Tom Croft's handsome recent performances in the broken field and turnovers, whereas Croft's Leicester team-mate Manu Tuilagi was more frustrating. The frighteningly powerful centre showed the worrying limitation of his passing, twice ignoring men outside in favour of contact and without being able to complete the post-tackle offload that might have justified what he did.

Tuilagi was also foxed by a silky run from Kyle Eastmond deep into the period from the 56th minute onwards when Bath were desperately trying to claw back Leicester's four-point lead. They finally managed it with seven minutes remaining when a Ben Youngs kick was boldly returned by the Bath replacement prop Anthony Perenise, who unleashed a spectacular one-handed offload for Louw, his captain, to finish the decisive try at the corner with a huge dive.

The tricky conversion by Tom Heathcote was off-target, and therein lay an important subplot to the main narrative: Heathcote, Donald and Ollie Devoto missed five kicks at goal between them to Toby Flood's none for Leicester. It emphasised the value to Bath of scoring four tries to Leicester's two, rewarding a gameplan aimed at stifling Flood. The home side were none too subtle in attack but never allowed Leicester to get more than eight points clear.

The result strengthened Bath's hand as they seek Heineken Cup qualification for next season by finishing in the Premiership's top six (or seven if Saracens win this season's Heineken in mid-May to earn England's clubs an extra place). The outcome of the meeting between their nearest rivals, Wasps and Exeter, today will be important, but essentially Bath will have to go all out for a win on their trip to Saracens on Saturday week. As for Leicester, they remain well set to earn a home semi-final with a win or draw against London Irish at Welford Road the same day.

A couple of scrum penalties eked out by Bath in the first half here may perturb the Tigers; on the flipside, they reversed that specific score after the break. "We only have ourselves to blame," said Richard Cockerill, Leicester's director of rugby. "We needed to be more accurate, and we know wherever we go it's everybody's cup final."

Cockerill indicated the week's rest his squad will have before they return to training will be welcome.

Tit for tat try-scoring in the first half had Simon Taylor over first for Bath to give them a 7-3 lead after Flood's first penalty among the England fly-half's half-dozen successful kicks and Donald's missed penalty. Tom Croft scored from a Leicester line-out with Adam Thompstone setting up in midfield and the England and 2009 Lions flanker swerving past Devoto at full-back in a testament to the hardening grounds that Premiership players speak so lovingly about at this time of year.

Semesa Rokoduguni ran in an interception try after picking off Mathew Tait's pass on the halfway line for Bath before poor Devoto was again a helpless and blameless last line of defence when Youngs tapped to himself and streaked 80 minutes through a dozing Bath side for a remarkable solo effort. A former Tiger had the last word before half-time, though, when Horacio Agulla caught a deliberate and accurate cross-kick by Donald to reward a Bath move following a line-out secured by Dave Attwood that skilfully sucked Leicester's defence in and left Tait exposed.

Donald, who is off to Japan this summer among seven Bath leavers, converted that one but, as their defence coach, Mike Ford, observed afterwards: "We left 13 points out there through kicks, so scoring four tries to two was pretty pleasing.

"What we've done is give ourselves a chance [of the Heineken Cup] and we've got two weeks to prepare for the last match. We kept a pretty firm rein on the league's top try scorers."

Two penalties by Flood after the officials judged Tait had not touched a misjudged punt from Donald over his goal-line and dead had Leicester 26-19 up before Heathcote, who had just come on with Donald moving to centre, struck a penalty which lifted spirits just as quickly as they sank again when the youngster hit a post from 40 metres.

It is widely believed Heathcote will have George Ford, son of Mike but currently a Tiger, for fly-half company here next season after a summer transfer. For now the homophonic Louw, Bath's South African flanker, is the toast of the city.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Bath: O Devoto; S Rokodugini, B Williams (T Heathcote, 53), K Eastmond, H Agulla; S Donald, M Claassens (P Stringer, 69); P James (N Catt, 61), R Webber (E Guinazu, 61), D Wilson (A Perenise, 60), D Day (W Spencer, 69), D Attwood, F Louw (capt), S Taylor (N Koster, 63-72), G Mercer (M Gilbert, 69).

Leicester Tigers: M Tait; M Smith, M Tuilagi, A Allen, A Thompstone (G Murphy, 63); T Flood (capt), B Youngs; L Mulipola, T Youngs (R Hawkins, 69), D Cole (M Castrogiovanni, 71), S Mafi (E Slater, 44), G Parling, T Croft, T Waldrom (J Crane, 53), J Salvi.

Referee: T Wigglesworth (Yorkshire).

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
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: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital