Tigers' life of Liley

Rugby Union: Bath 14 Leicester 15; Leicester rely on unerring kicker to keep battle for Courage title alive as careless Bath lose their edge
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The Independent Online
SO THERE is life in this championship yet. Had Bath won, their lead would surely have been unassailable with seven games remaining. But if the result was right, it was for the wrong reasons. For the sponsors, the media and the rugby public at large it is, of course, good news that meaningful competition has been prolonged. Yet the manner of Leicester's victory was less than satisfactory.

Their game from first to last was one of desperately limited ambition. They prevailed because of the unerring accuracy of their full-back, John Liley, whose five penalty goals, from a variety of distances and angles, were hit to perfection. So, too, was his line-kicking which was in stark contrast to Mike Catt's convulsive field-kicking for Bath.

On at least three occasions Catt's waywardness cost Bath good attacking lineouts. Leicester harnessed the wind much more effectively, particularly in the first half when it blew with increasing intensity at their backs. They deserved their victory and, as only the fourth side to win at the Recreation Ground since the inception of the leagues in 1988, they are in an elite set. But their game was balefully one- dimensional, relying on the unchallenged mastery of Martin Johnson in the lineout and the mauling efficiency of their pack which, in the rapidly deteriorating conditions, made sense, even though on the driest of days they play exactly the same way.

Bath, on the other hand, sought from the very first whistle to keep the ball alive, putting their runners into space and keeping a safe distance from Leicester's grappling superiority. Adedayo Adebayo's try, 34 seconds after the start, will take some beating when it comes to nominating the best of the season. Victor Ubogu set up the ruck, Catt whipped out a long pass to De Glanville, who transferred crisply to Jeremy Guscott. Guscott made ground before launching Adebayo from the halfway line and with a shimmy at precisely the right time the wing was round Liley to score.

Less than five minutes later, Jon Callard kicked the first of his three penalties and it seemed that Bath were on their way to yet another championship title.

But then carelessness set in and they lost their edge. A major factor in this was Ben Clarke's obsessive need to join his backs in open play. Clarke has many admirable qualities, but handling and running are not among them. He presents much too easy a target for the opposition tacklers and his interventions served only to slow down Bath's attacks.

It also became clear why de Glanville, a marvellously competent and intelligent centre, is less than convincing as an international prospect. He simply does not have the pace required for the higher levels and, given the sniff of an opening yesterday, he chose to kick rather than run. He is, however, an uncommonly useful player to have in your side and his leadership qualities succeeded in keeping the lid on a contest that occasionally threatened to overheat.

Twice the referee, Brian Campsall, had cause to deliver a stern lecture to Johnson and then, following a group discussion in which he appeared to issue a general warning to both sides, he showed a yellow card to the Leicester prop Darren Garforth. In the last couple of minutes, Leicester, holding on to their slender one-point lead, won a lineout close to the Bath line through Johnson, and Richards ploughed over. Then the game appeared to be up, but Campsall thought otherwise and not for the first time during the afternoon found himself in the minority. It was not the easiest nor was it the best afternoon that Mr Campsall has ever had.

Sadly the game finished on a sour note with Ian Sanders, the Bath scrum- half, being stretchered from the field with a neck injury. He was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure, but the injury is not thought to be serious.

Bath: J Callard; J Sleightholme, P de Glanville (capt), J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, I Sanders; D Crompton, G Dawe, V Ubogu, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, S Ojomoh, B Clarke.

Leicester: J Liley; W Kilford, R Robinson, P Delaney, R Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, N Back, D Richards (capt).

Referee: B Campsall (Yorkshire).