Varndell's energy takes Tigers top
Leicester 40 Bath 26
No such luck. In the 88th minute, Shane Jennings, Leicester's signing from Ireland, exploited chaos inside the Bath 22 to claim his side's fourth try. The result, of course, was a bonus point for the Tigers who moved to the creamy head of the Guinness Premiership while Bath are down among the dregs.
The abiding fashion of this entertaining if disjointed and at times laughable contest was the interception try. What do these people do on the training field all week? Learning how and when to pass would be a good start. The standard here had to be seen to be believed.
Bath, who drew both Premiership matches with Leicester last season, got off to a shocking start. From the kick-off Andy Goode sliced his attempted clearance to touch and the ball bounced in midfield, where Andy Beattie had all the time in the world to set up an attack. Matt Perry came steaming up from full-back only to receive an awful pass from Beattie. Perhaps it threw him because Perry then delivered a long, high pass which was meant for David Bory. It never reached the Frenchman and instead turned out to be a perfect pass for Tom Varndell, the Leicester left wing who had come into midfield. He strolled to the posts from about halfway and the Tigers were 7-0 ahead with 28 seconds gone.
Bath responded through the boot of Olly Barkley. A stupid shove by Harry Ellis conceded a penalty in the second minute and nine minutes later Ben Kay, otherwise anonymous, tackled Martyn Wood when the scrum-half was waiting for the ball. Barkley kicked both. There was more than the usual interest in Barkley's marksmanship. After a dismal start to the season Barkley dispensed with the services of the England kicking coach Dave Alred, Jonny Wilkinson's mentor. Having kicked Alred into touch, Barkley went back to his old routine and contributed 13 points with five kicks out of six.
Not bad but the bottom line is that Bath had nobody, bar the debutant Bory, to rival the pace, guile and aggression of Daryl Gibson and Varndell. The young wing went on to create another try and score a second, although Leicester did their damndest to repay Perry's hospitality.
After Barkley had made it 7-6, Goode landed the first of four penalties following a punch-up in which Steve Borthwick and Beattie became involved and in the 24th minute Leicester appeared to be cruising. Geordan Murphy's little chip down the left flank appeared to be well covered by Perry, Andy Higgins and Frikkie Welsh, but Varndell surprised them all by claiming possession and his inside pass put Murphy in the clear.
Trailing 17-6, Bath were in big trouble but they reckoned without this habit of players passing to the opposition. Five minutes before the break Gibson, who otherwise was outstanding, had his pass intercepted by Bory, who cleverly transferred to the unmarked Higgins and the centre was away. At times Leicester tried to be too clever by half and when they lost a line-out on their own throw Andy Dunne dropped a goal, reducing Bath's deficit at half time to a point.
Borthwick, the Bath captain, kept popping on and off to stem a river of blood that was flowing from the bridge of his nose and his great rival Kay was replaced as the Tigers upped the intensity. They had created a promising looking attack when, lo and behold, Goode's floated pass to the right wing was intercepted by Bory, who ran about 70 yards for the try.
Somehow Bath found themselves 23-17 in front and they braced themselves for the onslaught. It duly arrived. First, Alesana Tuilagi was taken out off the ball; Goode kicking the simple penalty. Then Bath were pulled left and right, culminating in Goode's long pass finding, miracle of miracles, Varndell, and he dived over for try number three. With Goode banging over everything, Leicester swept ahead again with 13 points in half-a-dozen minutes. By the end Bory wasn't sure what day it was, particularly after had unnecessarily been bundled into the advertising hoardings. In injury time Barkley landed a penalty which made it 33-26 and a bonus point was in the bag for Bath until Jennings' late, late contribution.
Leicester: G Murphy; T Varndell, L Lloyd (O Smith, 56), D Gibson, A Healey (A Tuilagi, 56); A Goode, H Ellis; A Moreno (M Holford, 69), G Chuter (E Taukafa, 70), J White, L Deacon, B Kay (J Hamilton, 52), W Johnson, M Corry (capt), S Jennings.
Bath: M Perry; D Bory, A Higgins, O Barkley, F Welsh (S Finau, 25); A Dunne, M Wood (N Walshe, 58); D Barnes, L Mears, M Stevens (D Bell, 52), S Borthwick (capt), D Grewcock, A Beattie, I Feaunati, G Delve (J Scaysbrook, 52).
Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).
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