Leicester 21-11 Bath: Tigers have the individual class to see off Bath
Leicester battled to a hard-fought 21-11 win against Bath in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday
Anthony Watson opened the scoring for Bath with the opening try after six minutes
The Tigers came from behind to lead 11-5 at the break compliments Telusa Veainu’s interception try and a pair of penalties from Tommy Bell
Dan Cole’s first try in six year’s plus five points from Bell secured the win after the restart
George Ford made up the visitors tally with two penalties
Dan Cole scored his first try in six years as Leicester enjoyed a hard-earned 21-11 win over Bath at Welford Road.
Bath’s Anthony Watson opened the scoring with a try on eight minutes, but Tommy Bell hit back with pair of penalties, either side of a Telusa Veainu try which handed Tigers an 11-5 half-time lead.
But Bath were level soon after the restart thanks to two George Ford penalties which made it 11 apiece on 50 minutes.
In wet conditions, the boot of Bell was then the only difference between the sides, his 66th-minute goal putting Tigers 14-11 up, however Cole was the unlikely late hero, scoring with seven minutes to play, Bell with the extras to seal the points.
Fresh from a morale-boosting 19-16 win over Leinster in Europe last Saturday, it was Bath who enjoyed a bright start as Watson finished off a scintillating move; the free hands of Nikola Matawalu kicked things off with a sublime dummy, which created space for Matt Banahan to race clear before setting up Watson for the finish.
But that proved to be the visitors’ only score of the first period as Leicester looked to hit back. It took until the 15th minute for the hosts to reduce the deficit as Bell notched up his first penalty of the day after a scrum.
But Bath were undeterred and their resilience in defence continued, until Veaniu split the game open, latching on to a sloppy pass from Nick Auterac before racing 80 metres downfield and swing the game in his side’s favour.
Bell, deputising in the absence of Owen Williams, was unsuccessful with the conversion attempt, but he added his second three-pointer of the half on 38 minutes after Peter Betham had broken to set up some dangerous field position.
Bath, still languishing in the lower reaches of the table, needed a response to turn the tide, and they got what they were looking for within five minutes of the restart as Ford registered his first points of the game.
The England man kicked his first penalty on the back of a scrum penalty before striking over a second on 50 minutes, this time from the touchline after Leicester failed to roll away, to make it 11-all with half an hour to play.
Bell, who was turning out for Championship side Jersey just last year, was handed the opportunity to put the hosts ahead once more from the tee soon after, but the windy conditions scuppered his chances as the ball swung well wide.
However, he recovered with 24 minutes to play to make it 14-11 to Richard Cockerill’s men after seizing a chance to save his blushes from an easier angle.
But it was Cole who finally secured the points in an epic tactical encounter between two of the Premiership’s big guns.
The burly prop, after extensive deliberation by the TMO, was awarded the try after crashing on to a loose knock back from Francois Louw to put Tigers seven points up – his first try since 2009.
With six minutes to play, Welford Road fell silent as Bell showed a fine level of composure to hit his first conversion of the evening and hand his side what looked to be an unassailable ten-point lead.
That proved to be the case as Bath failed to recover in the closing stages, leaving Leicester to move into the top three.
Man of the Match
Leicester Tigers: Mike Williams
In a ferocious encounter, whichever pack came out on top would be the winners. That proved to be Leicester and Williams, a shrewd-looking summer recruit from Worcester, was a crucial part of that, getting through a mountain of work with his aggressive edge helping the home side over the line
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait (c), 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Matt Smith, 11 Telusa Veainu, 10 Tommy Bell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Seremaia Bai, 23 George Catchpole.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 George Ford, 9 Niko Matawalu, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Tom Ellis, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 David Denton, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Tom Homer.
Date: Sunday 29 November
Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Wayne Falla, Paul Dix
TMO: David Grashoff