It was Bath against Leicester, but not as we know it. The final whistle on a Tigers victory at The Rec ought to signal massed lemming dives into the nearby Avon; instead the home crowd shrugged and tutted and went off for a pint. Clearly the English clubs believe the light is going out on the EDF Energy Cup, or at least dimming a little.
This is not to denigrate the efforts of the fringe players on view here, and, after all, there was a capacity attendance. Leicester's back-row resources appear strong and at fly-half there was an assured debut from Derick Hougaard, the former Springbok who had not featured before due to a shoulder injury. But when the Heineken Cup starts next weekend there will be wholesale changes from yesterday's line-ups as Bath travel to Toulouse and Leicester go to Swansea to face the Ospreys.
So while the likes of Nick Abendanon and Butch James put their feet up for Bath – only Justin Harrison started his third match of the week, and he went off after 26 minutes with a "stinger" arm injury – Andrew Higgins hogged the first-half limelight with two tries. The wing went over in the fifth minute after Michael Stephenson broke Hougaard's tackle; for the second, not long before the interval, he fielded a miss-kick by Leicester's full-back, Sam Vesty, after Ayoola Erinle had turned over Bath ball near the Tigers' posts, and won a tug-of-war with Tom Varndell to get the ball down.
In between Hougaard kicked two penalties and converted a try in the 19th minute. Dan Hemingway, the Leicester blindside, stole a line-out and Ben Youngs, one of two sons in the side of one-time Tigers No 9 Nick, sprinted 15 metres to score. Hemingway found himself running with two ex-Bulls: Hougaard, once of the so-named Super 14 side, and Shontayne of the Bradford rugby league variety at outside centre for Bath.
Trailing 13-12 at half-time, Bath needed to do more to hold on to the ball in contact. They could also have done without Robbie Kydd missing four goal kicks. Kydd's penalty replied to by Hougaard kept the margin at a point into the final quarter and Leicester toughed it out. Hougaard's drop goal, cleverly taken when he was slightly wrong-footed by Ben Youngs' pass, settled it in the 70th minute.
Next season's EDF Energy Cup is likely to include four teams from National League One and be more of a developmental event, played during international windows.
Bath's tiresomely perennial problem with expanding The Rec, or leaving the city centre, was addressed by their chairman, Andrew Brownsword, in his programme notes. There was no reference to a rumoured temporary move to Swindon Town FC and he appeared to indicate a long-term future at The Rec. "The atmosphere generated in Bath... [is] exceptional and cannot be lost to future generations." Brownsword does not do newspaper interviews, so we have no idea if he is any good at David Brent impressions: "You all know I don't want to move in with that Swindon mob, yeah, but we have to consider it, vis-à-vis bums on seats."
Sorry, but it was that sort of afternoon.
Bath: R Kydd; A Higgins, S Hape, T Cheeseman (R Crane, 73), M Stephenson; E Fuimaono-Sapolu, S Bemand (M Baxter, 71); D Flatman (capt; N Catt, 66), R Hawkins (P Dixon, 66), P Ion (A Jarvis, 40), J Harrison (S Hooper, 26), S Hobson (A Griffiths, 71), J Ovens, E Jackson, J Scaysbrook.
Leicester: S Vesty; T Varndell, A Erinle (M Smith, 58-64), T Youngs, A Tuilagi (Smith, 64); D Hougaard, B Youngs; B Stankovich (S Bonorino, 61), M Davies (G Chuter, 38-40; 55), D Cole, S Raven (J Goldspink, 71), B Kay (capt), D Hemingway, B Deacon (M Wentzel, 29), S Pearson (Wentzel, 48).
Referee: D Richards (England).Reuse content