Ellis's gamble at the last takes Tigers to the summit

Leicester 16 Bath 16

Hugh Godwin@HughGodwin_
Saturday 11 August 2012 03:03
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After Sale's defeat on Friday, most of Welford Road assumed Leicester - seeking a record fifth try-scoring bonus point in succession - would sweep to the top of the Premiership in a flurry of points.

Instead it took an added-time try by Harry Ellis, a gutsy effort if ever there was one, to earn a draw and take Tigers to the summit by the skin of their teeth.

In the frantic final knockings, Leicester worked themselves into the so-called red zone via a penalty and a line-out, and Martin Corry's short charge off the back of a scrum. This left Ellis with a big blindside to work with, but also a posse of five or six white Bath jerseys closing in for the kill.

The scrum-half backed his judgement like a Las Vegas gambler chucking in his last chip, fixed his eyes on the left corner flag and sprinted for all he was worth. The Bath hooker Jonathan Humphreys, head bandaged from the wounds of a tough afternoon in the tight, got nowhere near him, but the pacier Andrew Higgins all but forced Ellis into touch. A series of video replays was required before the television match official Nigel Yates delivered the verdict the majority in attendance wanted.

Had Ellis been held up he would have been castigated for taking the wrong option. As it was, the 22-year-old, who gets closer to full England honours with every passing week, was fêted as a hero. If Ross Broadfoot, Ellis's even younger half-back partner, had succeeded with the tricky conversion on a capricious breeze, Bath would have justifiably concluded the world was against them. Parity was the least they deserved from a performance of muscle and guile, led fore and aft by the England pair, Steve Borthwick and Mike Tindall.

The latter thoroughly outshone Leicester's Ollie Smith in the midfield, in one of many confrontations between potential England representatives. Yet Tindall was momentarily at fault, for Leicester's first try, in the 54th minute, when Corry went past his inside shoulder in the preamble to Geordan Murphy scoring. At that stage Leicester were on the comeback trail, 13-8 down, after Murphy's penalty, while Broadfoot received treatment to a cut, had given the home side their first points five minutes into the second half.

Towards the end of the first period, referee Chris White called the front rows together, perhaps to pass on the number of an anger management consultant or some such useful piece of advice. The six gentlemen of the apocalypse were not to be denied their fun, though, and a fine old battle they had throughout. "We didn't have the ascendancy we had in the scrums in previous games," said John Wells, the Leicester head coach, who put some of that down to an England get-together disrupting Leicester's week (a familiar refrain in these parts).

Whatever the case, it was a matter of considerable credit to Bath's David Barnes that he stood up well to 36 stones worth of Julian White and Martin Johnson bearing down on him. And a matter of concern to club and country that White went off with a shoulder injury after an awkward fall; the tighthead prop will be assessed further today.

When Olly Barkley put over his second penalty goal from the halfway line a few seconds before the break, Bath were pumped up for a repeat of their only previous Premiership win here, a week after the World Cup final last season. Michael Lipman took a forward-looking pass to finish off a first-phase try from a line-out in the sixth minute, and Barkley made it 10-0 soon after when Leicester killed a ruck. Umpteen reset scrums could not drain Bath; that pleasure was Ellis's.

Leicester: S Vesty; G Murphy, O Smith, S Rabeni (D Hipkiss, 80), J Holtby; R Broadfoot (M Cornwell, 46-59), H Ellis; G Rowntree, G Chuter, J White (D Morris, 49), M Johnson (capt), B Kay, B Deacon (W Johnson, 52), M Corry, N Back.

Bath: L Best; A Higgins, R Fleck, M Tindall, B Daniel; O Barkley (C Malone, 80), M Wood; D Barnes (M Stevens, 51), J Humphreys (capt), D Bell, S Borthwick, D Grewcock, A Beattie, I Feaunati, M Lipman (J Scaysbrook, 80).

Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).

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