Todays clash in the Gallagher Premiership was between two teams full of star power as Bath travelled to Welford Road to face the Leicester tigers. The game got off to a slightly bizzare start as a breakaway from a Tigers maul confused not only the cameraman but critically about 5 of the Leicester players who, by the time they had realised didn’t have the ball, were too late to stop Beno Abano powering himself over the line for the first points of the afternoon. Conversion followed and Bath were up to a quick 7-0 lead.
Things got worse for the Tigers when not 15 minutes into the clash they were down to 14 after an Anthony Watson break was unceromoniusly ended by a high shot from Jasper Wiese that certaintly warranted a yellow. Yellow cards bring space for the opposing side and this was beautifully illustrated by Ben spencer who, with something as much rumba as rugby, danced through the defensive line with a quick show and go, chipped over the cover defender and finished it himself to bring Baths try tally to 2.
The story of the opening period for the Tigers was the all too familiair pattern of kicking possesion away. Now I know every pundit in the game has an opinion on this with a apparent transistion in thinking from those who most recently played arguing that its an essential part of modern gameplay and those more long retired bemoaning the boring spectacle it can become. In this game however it certainly felt as if the kicks were giving the receiving team much more than they were the kicking team with all the impostus being handed to Bath. This may have been exagereated but the yellow card Leicester were still playing under but it felt like a style that wasn’t doing them any favours 25 minutes in.
We would soon see if this was to be the case and Leicester returned to full strength but the sin bin period has been taken full advantage of by the visitiors from the south west. Being back to 15 seemed to boost the Tigers and a huge carry from the baby rhino himself splintered the Bath defense and they were never able to recover the situation before neat hands from George Ford got Leicester in on the try scoring. The succesful conversion added to two earlier Ford penalities brought them within a point at 13-14. A Bath penalty put the lead back up to 4 shortly after and as we approached half time it appeared niether side were keen to end it as we played well into the red with both sides prodding a probing looking for some final points to take into the break.
Ultimately it was Leicster whose oranges would taste slightly sweeter and a Wayne Barnes whislte at ruck time gave George Ford a long distance shot at the posts which he slotted to take them to withing a point again after at team feeling like Bath were liable to break things open. Half time Leicester 16 Bath 17. Star of the half was Baths Zack Mercer who for 40 minutes refused to go down at the first attempt.
The second half scoring started just as quickly as the first although this time in a more traditional matter. A sequence from Nadolo that included a line break, fend and out the back off-load put Harry Wells through with a run at they try line which he gladly converted. A game that was never boring then produced little to talk about for a while as each team in a ‘another you can do’ situation traded shots at goal and everyone watching got a free refresher course in their 3 times tables.
For those wondering what 23 + 3 equals its 26. Which is how many points both sides had after another Preistland kick after 63 minutes of gameplay. Leicester Tigers were first to leave the kicking party with a break in the wide channel giving the go forward ball to their impressive number 8 Wiese, who had long made ammends for his early card, and he carried hard to towards the line before once of his comrades in the Tigers scrum got over for the score.
After Lecisters first half kicking tactics seemed to only serve in giving momentum away, things turned in the second half as George Ford switched to a very delierate tactic of bombing the ball as high as possible and asking the Bath back 3 to prove they could deal with it. Well, the couldn’t for the most part. The ball swerved all over and as the confidence in the catchers dwindled Ford keept sending them up. It was an incredibly succesfull adjustment and it kept the pressure on the vistitors who although scored a late try to secure a losing bonus point were never able to do enough to take the win away from Leicester who ended up taking it 36-31. Man of the match was Liecesters Jasper Wieser who did the zero to hero perfectly racking up 112m made after his earlier 10 minutes in the bin.
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