Murphy leaves Bath in cold-sweat mode

Bath 8 Leicester 15

David Llewellyn
Sunday 02 February 2003 01:00

The tension was more loose elastic than tensile steel and the play lacked the drama of previous Bath-Leicester clashes. The fact that Bath salvaged a point for just managing to remain seven points adrift was mean consolation. They need something more substantial if they are to claw their way back up the Premiership table.

Neither side played brilliantly but the fact that Leicester emerged with the win speaks volumes for their desire to get into the top three in readiness for the championship play-offs.

The quality was dubious, especially early on. There were poorly hit and misdirected touch kicks and so many missed goal kicks, in the first half especially, that it was a miracle either side scored any points. Ollie Barkley was guilty of wasting four penalty attempts and a conversion, and Mike Catt's predilection for the long pass was not shared often enough by his colleagues, who too frequently lagged behind.

For all that, the home side still drew first blood at Barkley's second penalty attempt in the 12th minute. Leicester had been forced into making one telling change when Tim Stimpson failed to recover in time from a rib injury, leaving the valiant Geordan Murphy with the order of the boot for the day. He, like Barkley, failed with a couple of kicks at goal.

When, later in the half, Murphy flung a pass more in hope than expectation after being put under pressure by Bath wing Simon Danielli, it caused serious mayhem for the defenders. Although Leon Lloyd appeared to have rescued the situation, his equally hopeless pass inside rolled obligingly to Danielli's feet again and Scotland's newest squad member scooped it up and stormed over in the corner.

Some seven minutes later Catt, who had, by and large, been enjoying a creative and satisfactory second match back under the interested gaze of England assistant coach Andy Robinson, and would certainly justify his selection for the A team, telegraphed his intent well in advance as he slung the ball towards his right wing. It never arrived. Instead the Leicester lock Ben Kay seized on the ball and covered the 45 metres relatively untroubled. Murphy had no problem with the conversion.

Not long after that, Martin Johnson was dismissed to the sin bin for playing the ball on the ground but the penalty produced by it was one of those missed by Barkley, and Bath failed to breach the Tigers' defences while the Leicester captain was off the field.

Young Spencer Davey, in for Mike Tindall who had cried off in the morning with a hip injury, appeared to have scored in the right-hand corner but both the touch judge and the referee deemed him to have been in touch.

When Johnson re-emerged early in the second half no damage had been done and a better organised Tigers realigned themselves and applied pressure to the home guard. Sam Vesty landed a penalty at his first attempt and not long afterwards, with Bath not really showing well, Murphy found himself on the end of Freddie Tuilagi's off-load in a tackle over on the left and dived through the cover to put the game out of reach.

There was some spirited stuff from Bath, with Catt growing in confidence and making more breaks, but Leicester are possessed of a sturdy defence and never looked remotely in danger even with the blue shirts pressing from five metres out.

Bath: M Perry; S Danielli, K Maggs, S Davey, O Barkley; M Catt, G Cooper (A Williams, 73); D Barnes (S Emms, 73), J Humphreys (L Mears, 15-27 & 56), J Mallett (A Galasso, 58), S Borthwick, D Grewcock (capt), A Beattie, N Thomas (G Thomas, 70), A Vander.

Leicester: G Murphy; L Lloyd (S Booth, 58), O Smith, R Kafer, F Tuilagi; S Vesty, J Hamilton; G Rowntree, D West, D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), B Kay, L Moody, M Corry (J Kronfeld, 66), N Back.

Referee: D Pearson (Ashington).

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