Dupuy's late swivel pulls plug on Bath ambitions

Leicester 20 Bath 15
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The Independent Online

At the final blast of the whistle at the Walkers Stadium on Saturday, REM were on the public address system, serenading all the "shiny, happy people" in green, red and white.

Had you blinked moments earlier you might have missed the rapid eye movement that sparked the joyous celebrations.

There were 53 seconds left to play when Julien Dupuy turned back from a ruck, some 25 metres out from the Bath try line, and clocked the opposition closing down on Sam Vesty and Geordan Murphy.

In an instant, Leicester's replacement scrum-half swivelled 360 degrees and – with the scores tied at 15-15 and extra time beckoning – went for a drop of instinctive Gallic inspiration instead of attempting to tee up a drop at goal. Six seconds later, the man from the Dordogne had settled the Heineken Cup quarter-final clash of the English heavyweights.

On his way towards the channel of the whitewash, he had given Joe Maddock the slip with a delightful step off the right peg. It was neat all right, and the vast majority of those in attendance on Saturday really loved those Tiger feet.

"Dupuy's bit of magic at the end was as good as it gets, I think," Richard Cockerill ventured to suggest.

Jack Nicholson might argue otherwise but then Leicester's old hooker is getting rather good himself at this acting business. This was his seventh win in nine games as acting head coach of the Tigers. His charges sit on top of the Guinness Premiership and now have a Heineken Cup semi-final date against the Cardiff Blues at the Millennium Stadium.

Their dramatic success on Saturday owed not a little to Cockerill's foresight in summoning Dupuy from bench duty in the 51st minute, swapping the doggedness of Harry Ellis for the sharpness of the Frenchman. As the acting head coach reflected: "Against tired defenders, Dupuy is one of the best in the world at doing what he does."

It is little wonder he relishes being let off the leash, having spent much of his time at Biarritz tethered to the bench, watching Dimitri Yachvili run the show for the Basques, as he did for the entirety of the 2006 Heineken Cup final defeat against Munster in Cardiff.

Dupuy's long-term future at Welford Road is far from clear, with his girlfriend back in France and the uncapped 25-year-old keen to join her, but Vesty, a fourth-generation Tiger, continues to look part of the fixtures and fittings. His five penalties, courtesy of some sterling work at the breakdown, kept Leicester in touch while Shaun Berne and Maddock ran in tries for Bath.

Vesty's conversion miss at the death was a luxury the shiny, happy Tigers could afford.

Scorers: Leicester Try Dupuy; Penalties Vesty (5). Bath: Tries Berne, Maddock; Conversion James; Penalty James.

Leicester: G Murphy (capt); S Hamilton, D Hipkiss, S Vesty, A Tuilagi; T Flood, H Ellis (J Dupuy, 51); M Ayerza, G Chuter, M Castrogiovanni, L Deacon (C Newby, 48), B Kay, T Croft, B Woods, B Pienaar (J Crane, 47).

Bath: N Abendanon (A Higgins, 75); J Maddock, A Crockett (S Berne, 32), S Hape, M Banahan; B James, M Claassens; D Flatman, L Mears, D Bell, J Harrison, P Short (S Hooper, 56), A Beattie, M Lipman (capt), J Fa'amatuainu (J Scaysbrook, 62).

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).