Premiership: Jamie Gibson claws Leicester Tigers back in Bath belter

Leicester 27 Bath 27

welford road

And so it came to pass shortly after the year’s turning, with European rugby politics in meltdown and most of those charged with running the sport steadfastly refusing to address the major issues of the moment – why bother with a summit meeting when you can watch Guyana play the Galapagos Islands in the 48th round of World Cup qualifiers and then enjoy a sundowner on the beach? – that two of England’s biggest clubs provided a timely reminder of just how much the Premiership has brought to the union game in these islands.

No wonder the Welsh regions want as big a piece of it as they can get. Not to mention those who pay to watch those poor benighted teams every week – honest rugby folk who were effectively disenfranchised by their governing body when the old club league was disbanded a little over a decade ago and now, shamefully, find themselves in danger of being disenfranchised all over again.

When they look across the River Severn and see a domestic club game being played on this scale, they must yearn with every fibre of their being for a joining of hands across the water.

“Two good packs, two sets of backs who genuinely wanted to have a crack… I reckon that was a pretty good advert for the Premiership,” said Richard Cockerill, the Leicester director of rugby, with a broad smile. Two points here. Firstly, it must have been one hell of a contest if Cockerill felt he enjoyed the spectacle after being deprived of victory by one solitary fluffed conversion attempt. Secondly, it was just about the first time in months that he had managed to say something non-controversial. Not even the buttoned-up moral majority in rugby’s public prints could conceivably find anything worth objecting to on this occasion.

It was a belter, no question. Bath, who travelled this well-worn road uncomfortable in the knowledge that their single Premiership win at Welford Road had been way back in 2003, led for the vast majority of the game: only twice, early in the first half and at the fag end of the second, were Leicester anything but second best. But when it comes to making the best of a bad job – of chiselling out a result in the face of adversity – the Midlanders are as resourceful as anyone, anywhere. When, with mere seconds left on the clock, Jamie Gibson was asked to hit the bullseye with one last, last shot at salvation, he did not look like missing.

Gibson’s touchdown at the corner flag in Matt Banahan’s strong-armed tackle would have won the game for the champions had Owen Williams added the extras with the last act of the match, but the young Welshman’s kick started right and stayed that way. Which was fair enough, all things considered, for if Leicester’s resurgence had the 22,000-plus crowd transfixed, Bath had been every bit as compelling in establishing what looked like a decisive lead in the third quarter and in fighting like dogs when the pressure came on in the fourth.

Some of the visiting backs played with the air of Test performers in the making, not least the teenage wing Anthony Watson, whose 14th-minute try was a minor masterpiece in the art of finishing. George Ford, another impressive contributor, and Nick Abendanon made the early inroads – a smart pass off scruffy possession from the former, a quicksilver break from the latter – but Watson still had plenty to do. Leicester’s wide defenders are no mugs, but it may take them another fortnight to work out where the Bath man went after drawing in Miles Benjamin and Niall Morris with a step so light and airy it bordered on the ethereal.

Benjamin, who had opened the scoring with a fine try of his own, played pretty well after this unwelcome turn of events, but he could do little to prevent Kyle Eastmond and the hot-running Ford creating a second Bath try for Francois Louw. And when Ford sent Jonathan Joseph over at the sticks with a short pass that may or may not have been forward – “You could watch it a million times and still not make up your mind,” Cockerill said, generously – it seemed Leicester would be broken. To avoid that fate, they had to hit overdrive up front: indeed, it is safe to say that neither Thomas Waldrom nor Gibson were used to working quite as hard for the tries that squared things up.

As bright academically as he is rugby-wise (his studies in classics at Oxford are on hold) the fast-improving Gibson caught the eye every bit as frequently as the Champagne Charlie brigade in the Bath back line. There are those who considered the former London Irish back-rower a little too nice for the shop-floor life at Leicester – “If he’s moved up there to be intellectually challenged, he’ll end up being precisely that,” was the wisecrack at the time – but according to Cockerill, he is making a proper fist of it. “You have to earn the right to play first-team rugby here,” he said. “Which is what Jamie has done, definitely.”

It may well be that these two sides will meet again this term, at the semi-final stage. “If we have to come back here then, we won’t be frightened,” said Mike Ford, the Bath coach. No one will be scared of spending good money to watch it, either – proof, if any were needed, that the best of the Premiership is very good indeed.

Leicester: Tries: Benjamin, Waldrom, Gibson; Penalties: Williams 4. Bath: Tries: Watson, Louw, Joseph; Conversions: Ford 3; Penalties: Ford 2.

Leicester: M Tait; N Morris, V Goneva, T Flood (capt), M Benjamin; O Williams, B Youngs (D Mele, 62); M Ayerza, T Youngs, D Cole, L Deacon, E Slater (S De Chavez, 58), J Gibson, J Salvi, J Crane (T Waldrom, 62).

Bath: N Abendanon (H Agulla, 78); A Watson, J Joseph, K Eastmond (O Devoto, 72), M Banahan; G Ford, P Stringer (M Roberts, 59); P James (N Catt, 59), R Webber (E Guinazu, 70), A Perenise (J P Orlandi, 67), S Hooper (capt), D Attwood (D Day, 68), M Garvey, F Louw, C Fearns (L Houston, 67).

Referee: J P Doyle (London).

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
life
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
Environment
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

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

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone