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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
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

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride