Cockerill scalds referee while his Tigers run hot
Leicester Tigers 43 Bath 20: Bath blasted but coach is unhappy with official's treatment of dominant scrum
It takes a lot to make Richard Cockerill happy, judging by the way the Leicester head coach was ranting at the referee right to the end of his side's five-try win over their great rivals. The handling of the scrum was Cockerill's beef and while the number of resets would have taxed a saint, the full-throated barbs questioning the man with the whistle, Sean Davey, went further than the bounds of passion or partisanship.
After a suspension earlier this season for criticising officials, you would think Cockerill would be more circumspect about shouting "You're making it up as you go along" from the middle of the grandstand. When Davey's final whistle had blown and Leicester had extended their lead at the top of the Premiership and ended Bath's seven-match winning streak, Cockerill did at least explain himself.
"We were dominant in the scrum and yet every one of them seemed to be reset," he said. "It is so frustrating. I don't necessarily want the referee dishing cards out, I just want the reward, a penalty for three points or to re-scrum and put them under pressure. Referees have to reward sides who want to be positive, and that's not just with ball in hand, that's the scrummage as well."
Five minutes from the end, a splintered Bath pack conceded a penalty try. It was converted by Toby Flood, who finished with 18 points from kicks. Bath's midfielders, Butch James and Olly Barkley, had recently returned from long-term injuries. James had been prominent in Bath's best spell, midway through the second half, when a try by Matt Banahan had them trailing 33-20 with a sniff of a comeback. If Banahan had chased a subsequent James cross-kick with a little more gusto, things might have been different. The South African fly-half, by then, was surviving on adrenaline, alternating between the sublime tap-on pass which put Banahan over, and a few alley-cat scraps off the ball.
Otherwise Bath were firmly put in their place, which looks like a chase for a Heineken Cup spot rather than the play-offs. They sorely missed the injured Luke Watson at No 8 and the two propping Davids – Wilson and Flatman - in the face of Leicester's back-row goliaths, Tom Croft, Jordan Crane and Lewis Moody. The last-named is joining Bath next season.
"This certainly reinforced that you have got to front up with a level of intensity that gives you a chance," said Steve Meehan, the Bath coach. His tortuousness probably masked Cockerill-like anger; each to his own.
Shontayne Hape has been mentioned enough by Martin Johnson for him to expect to go on England's five-match summer tour. His first contribution here was an unhappy one, being stripped of the ball in Bath's opening attack, allowing Matt Smith and Flood to free Alesana Tuilagi after 36 seconds. Flood converted. Tuilagi scored again in the 16th minute, following a penalty each by Barkley and Flood, with a try at the left corner constructed on Croft's line-out take, half-breaks by Anthony Allen and Smith, a maul controlled by Martin Castrogiovanni and a super-cool miss-pass from the scrum-half, Ben Youngs.
A ricochet from an Allen grubber kick allowed Bath to score a breakaway try by Joe Maddock, converted by Barkley, but in the 34th minute they had Peter Short sent to the sin-bin for a daft bat of the ball out of Youngs' hands from an offside position. By half-time Leicester led 25-13, thanks to a penalty apiece by Flood and Barkley, followed by Allen picking the perfect line to make a try for Geoff Parling after Youngs had pinched possession off Michael Claassens and combined with Croft.
Allen's storming counter-attack try down the left brought up Leicester's bonus point in the 44th minute and Flood then kicked another penalty. Bath's mini-revival counted for nothing when Flood smashed over a kick from halfway and the Tigers' scrum completed the try-scoring.
"With all the talk about Bath," Cockerill said, "nobody understands how good we are. Our line-out took them apart in the second half. Everybody wants to knock us because we are good. I've been telling the players, 'Everybody hates us and we don't care'."
With that misquoting of the Millwall mantra, "Cockers" was done. And so, from whichever angle you looked at it, were Bath.
Leicester Tigers G Murphy (capt; J Murphy, 70); S Hamilton, M Smith (J Staunton, 63), A Allen, A Tuilagi; T Flood, B Youngs (J Grindal, 75); M Ayerza (B Stankovich, 74), M Davies (G Chuter, 75), M Castrogiovanni (D Cole, 59), L Deacon (B Kay, 70), G Parling, T Croft, J Crane, L Moody (C Newby, 67).
Bath N Abendanon; J Maddock, S Hape, O Barkley (M Carraro, 48), M Banahan; B James (N Little, 76), M Claassens (capt; S Bemand, 76); D Barnes (N Catt, 52), L Mears (P Dixon, 63), D Bell (A Jarvis, 76), S Hooper, P Short (D Grewcock, 48), A Beattie (J Faamatuainu, 66), B Skirving, J Salvi.
Referee: S Davey (Sussex).
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