Leicester batter Bath and give Steve Borthwick food for thought

 Harry Potter of Leicester Tigers crosses to score the team's first try during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Leicester Tigers and Bath Rugby at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium - /Getty Images/George Wood
Harry Potter of Leicester Tigers crosses to score the team's first try during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Leicester Tigers and Bath Rugby at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium - /Getty Images/George Wood

Six Nations fallow weeks are double-edged swords – especially for those on the fringes of international recognition. Players can play themselves in or out of contention, while those retained in camp can see themselves usurped in the pecking order without having even laced a boot for their club.

On Sunday, as Leicester Tigers moved up to third in the Premiership table with a bonus-point drubbing of Bath, there were plenty of displays to give Steve Borthwick food for thought. George Martin and Joe Heyes – both capped by the England head coach's predecessor, Eddie Jones – were monstrously physical in the Tigers' victory, with the former making more tackles than anyone on the field and the latter's display all the more vital to Borthwick since Will Stuart, Heyes' opposite number, departed in the second half due to a head injury.

"We're definitely going to give the old boss some headaches," said Richard Wigglesworth, interim Tigers head coach. "George Martin's output for a second row has been astonishing over the past few weeks. But he's also a genuine six.

"We were really good in parts but we knocked off for 30 minutes which really annoyed me. Conceding four tries at home is not quite good enough."

The star of the Leicester show was uncapped wing Harry Potter, who inflicted untold mayhem upon Bath with the ball and tormented them without it. Potter is English-qualified, and only in December last year Borthwick – in his penultimate match as Tigers head coach – hailed Potter's Test potential. The Australian-raised wing could not have done more to hold his former boss to his word on Sunday.

Julian Montoya scores - George Wood/Getty Images
Julian Montoya scores - George Wood/Getty Images

The same assessment could not be afforded to Bath, however. Although the visitors departed with a losing bonus point – Fergus Lee-Warner barging through Tom Whiteley late on – Bath also headed back down to the West Country battered, bruised, and still without a victory in 2023. As well as Stuart, Sam Underhill and Jaco Coetzee were forced to depart, while Alfie Barbeary hobbled off after just 10 minutes on debut for the club he joined in November after Wasps' demise.

"None of the injuries look good," said Johann van Graan, Bath director of rugby. "Sam, Jaco and Will were head knocks. And I can't see Alfie being anything but serious."

Out of these two historic rivals, one looked a genuine contender for the top four, and the other looked light years away. By half-time, Leicester had the bonus point wrapped up thanks to tries from Potter, Julian Montoya - the first of two for the hooker - Handre Pollard - who scored 21 points in total - and Hanro Liebenberg.

Bath managed two first-half tries of their own – through Matt Gallagher and Ben Spencer – but they also copped two first-half yellow cards as their discipline deteriorated and their line-out imploded with Josh McNally and Tom Dunn in the sin bin. Leicester ran riot, led by 18 points at half-time and recorded their biggest first-half points total since 2018.

McNally and Lee-Warner kept the visitors in touch, but in front of distinguished past players like Peter Wheeler and Paul Dodge, Leicester neutralised Bath's rearguard. Montoya added a second, Wells went under the sticks after a scintillating Mike Brown break, and the Tigers were back in the play-off reckoning. England might be the unintended beneficiary, however.

Match details

Scoring sequence: 0-5 Gallagher try, 5-5 Potter try, 7-5 Pollard con, 12-5 Pollard try, 14-5 Pollard con, 19-5 Montoya try, 21-5 Pollard con, 21-8 Spencer pen, 24-8 Pollard pen, 24-13 Spencer try, 29-13 Liebenberg try, 31-13 Pollard con, 31-18 McNally try, 31-20 Spencer con, 34-20 Pollard pen, 39-20 Montoya try, 41-20 Pollard con, 46-20 Wells try, 48-20 Atkinson con, 48-25 Lee-Warner try, 48-27 Spencer con. H-T: 31-13

Leicester Tigers: M Brown; H Potter, M Scott, J Gopperth (G Porter 46), H Simmons; H Pollard (C Atkinson 67), B Youngs (T Whiteley 68); T West (F van Wyk 55), J Montoya (c) (C Clare 67), J Heyes (W Hurd 60), G Martin, C Henderson, H Liebenberg (O Cracknell 52), T Reffell (H Wells 60), J Wiese.
Bath: T de Glanville; R McConnochie (L Schreuder 59), J Joseph, C Redpath (M Ojomoh 68), M Gallagher; O Bailey, B Spencer (c); B Obano (J Schoeman 64), T Dunn (N Annett 65), W Stuart (D Rae 55), J McNally, GJ van Velze, F Lee-Warner, S Underhill (C Cloete 46), J Coetzee (A Barbeary 38, M Reid 48).

Yellow cards: Dunn 20, McNally 23
Referee: K Dickson
Attendance: 22,220