Premiership: Bath late show stuns champions Leicester Tigers

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Will Butt produced a brilliant finish with the clock in the red as Bath secured their third Premiership victory in a row by defeating defending champions Leicester Tigers 19-18 at the Rec.

It was a tight game throughout but it was the hosts that started the brighter as Orlando Bailey rewarded their early endeavour with a penalty.

Leicester began to take control, however, and went 10-3 in front thanks to Freddie Burns’ three-pointer and Nemani Nadolo’s try.

Although Ted Hill responded for the West Country outfit, the Tigers held a 15-8 advantage at the break through James Cronin’s close range effort.

The second period was particularly tense as Bailey and Burns traded penalties before Bath’s fly-half reduced the arrears to four points with 10 minutes remaining.

Johann van Graan’s men pressed for the winning try and dramatically came as Butt held off the attentions of several defenders to touch down for a big Premiership triumph.

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The Rec has seen a few narrow finishes over the years, but this was as close a squeak as any – and never more welcome for the Bath faithful.

Bath had been quickly on the scoreboard with a Bailey penalty from 30 metres.

But it was an unequal struggle for the next half hour as Leicester brought their heavy guns into action, particularly through the muscular presence of wing Nadolo.

Nadolo, soon to leave Tigers for a mid-season move to the Waratahs, scored a trademark try after just five minutes, rampaging through the attempted tackles of Butt and Jamie Shillcock. Burns, whose skip pass created the score, converted from the touchline.

The Fijian was just as much a threat in midfield, adding his pace to the visitors’ heavy infantry as Bath’s defence struggled to cope with the pace and angles of running.

Centre Harry Potter almost profited from a sniping run by Richard Wigglesworth only for Ollie Lawrence to force a knock-on, while Hill made an equally telling tackle on Harry Wells under the Bath posts.

Burns stretched the visitors’ lead to 10-3 with a penalty and they might have had more to show for their territorial domination had Shillcock not been so alert at the back.

Bath’s try on the half-hour therefore came right out of the blue, as Lawrence broke from deep and Bailey found Jonathan Joseph with a flat pass. The England international broke through and Miles Reid was in support to put Hill away, stepping out of Nadolo’s tackle to score. Bailey’s conversion was just wide.

Tigers’ possession dominance

Leicester only held a two-point lead from 67 per cent possession, but they were not to be denied for long as prop Cronin touched down from a catch-and-drive after a rising penalty count saw Bath forced into defending a line-out in the corner. Burns was unsuccessful with his kick too.

Bath were in more combative mood after the break and the hard-running Lawrence was stopped under the posts. Tigers continued to hold out until Bailey settled for a close-range penalty.

Burns hit back with a long-range penalty on 65 minutes, but Bailey helped himself to a third successful kick at the other end after Burns was guilty of a deliberate knock-on, before the hosts snatched victory at the death.

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