Little's last-gasp penalty scrapes a draw for Bath
Bath 20 Leicester Tigers 20: Leicester finally score a try, but Staunton's missed kicks let rivals off the hook
Sunday 27 September 2009
Nicky Little kicked a penalty in the 84th minute to salvage a draw for Bath which may have felt like a moral victory. On the balance of play they deserved better.
A typically attritional contest came to a head in the closing stages and Leicester appeared to have lost the plot when Jeremy Staunton missed a couple of fairly straightforward penalties. However, the Tigers then struck with a breakaway try in the 81st minute. Fielding a clearance kick deep in his own half, Scott Hamilton hoisted an up and under which was brilliantly scavenged by the Tigers and the scrum-half Ben Youngs made the most of the space created with a powerful, swerving run. Youngs completely wrong-footed Bath's defence and his pass to Dan Hipkiss enabled the centre to cross in the right-hand corner.
With Staunton adding the points, Leicester were 20-17 ahead, and that appeared to be that. But Little could not be kept out of the equation. In the 50th minute he had committed a late and high tackle on Geordan Murphy, who needed lengthy treatment. The upshot was a yellow card for Little and a penalty for Staunton which went wide. At the end Little's penalty did not go wide, although he didn't hang about. He drove straight up to Manchester, where his wife is expecting their first child.
Lewis Moody, making his first start of the season, announced his arrival with a thumping tackle on the Bath captain, Michael Claassens, and it was by no means the least of his contributions. The Lions and England flanker seemed to be all over the Rec and his tackle count was impressive. Not as impressive, though, as his skilful sleight of hand which contributed to Leicester's first try of the season. It came in the 26th minute and it meant that the Tigers fell 33 minutes short of establishing a new Premiership record. Northampton's mark, set in 2004, survives. Then, the Saints went 319 minutes without scoring a try.
Leicester avoided that stigma when Geordan Murphy managed to keep the ball alive despite being under pressure and when the attack switched to the left Moody, with his back to his team-mates, delivered a pass through his legs which, under the circumstances, was the perfect solution. With Lee Mears down and injured, his opposite number, Mefin Davies, found himself in splendid isolation on the left wing. The hooker, who is not in the habit of scoring tries, was able to stroll over.
If Coral, who are one of Leicester's sponsors, had said the club would not score a try until their fourth Premiership match, the odds against would have been considerable. Had somebody backed Davies to be the first try-scorer, they would have hit the jackpot.
If the Tigers haven't been crossing the whitewash, nor have they been conceding tries, and they were within nine minutes of creating another record, this one for defensive excellence, when Bath created a try three minutes before half-time. Joe Maddock made headway with a jinking run and Matt Banahan was the beneficiary as he crashed through Johne Murphy and Aaron Mauger for his 16th Premiership try.
The opening to the match had given no clue to the drama that was to follow, as Little and Staunton teed up penalty after penalty. Little's three accurate strikes put Bath 9-3 in front by the 16th minute but Leicester had sauntered ahead within 10 minutes of that, Staunton kicking his second penalty before Moody's handiwork.
Banahan's try, in the 37th minute, wasn't converted by Little, but Bath went in with a 14-13 lead. Three minutes after the interval Little was upended by the extremely large figure of Richard Blaze and the stand-off dusted himself off to increase Bath's lead to 17-13.
Every point,of course, was vital and when Staunton, with the pressure really on, missed twice the Rec began to rock. Against this lot, though, they should have known better.
Bath N Abendanon; J Maddock, M Banahan, S Hape, J Cuthbert; N Little, M Claassens (capt); D Barnes (D Flatman, 55), L Mears (P Dixon, 67), D Bell (A Jarvis, 67), P Short (S Hooper, 55), D Grewcock, J Faamatuainu (A Beattie, 75), B Skirving, J Salvi.
Leicester G Murphy (capt; M Smith, 52); S Hamilton, A Allen, A Mauger, J Murphy; J Staunton, J Grindal (B Youngs, 67); M Ayerza (B Stankovich, 67), M Davies, J White (M Castrogiovanni, 49), R Blaze, B Kay (G Parling, 61), C Newby (B Deacon, 78), J Crane, L Moody.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).
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