Tigers finally beaten while Bath stop their drought

·6-min read

Leicester Tigers suffered their first loss of the season as they fell 16-13 to a brave Wasps side in their Premiership clash on Sunday.

Wasps veteran Jimmy Gopperth kicked three second-half penalty goals in one of the shocks of the season in Coventry.

The hosts, who were missing 17 of their players through injury and illness, had won only one of their last eight matches but a committed performance deprived Leicester of the opportunity to break a number of records.

Had they won, Tigers would have equalled their club record of season-opening winning streaks (16 wins in the 1983/84 season). They would have also drawn level with the club record for consecutive away wins (10, February to November 1995) and matched the Premiership record for a best start to the season (12 wins by Newcastle in 1997/98).

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In addition to Gopperth’s penalties, Wasps were awarded a penalty try while Tigers responded with a try from Julian Montoya, with George Ford adding two penalties and a conversion.

Prior to kick-off, injury-hit Wasps lost two further players in prop Tom West and lock Vaea Fifita, who both withdrew from the starting line-up with illness.

The game began in dramatic fashion with Tigers conceding a penalty try and losing a man to the sin-bin before four minutes had elapsed.

An attempted clearance was partially charged down, which played Brad Shields onside in a promising position.

The home side looked to have a golden opportunity for the opening score but appeared to have blown it until TMO replays showed Tommy Reffell had tackled Elliott Stooke off the ball. A penalty try was awarded with Reffell placed in the sin-bin.

Ford put Leicester on the scoreboard with two penalties in quick succession as his side made light of Reffell’s absence but the outside half was surprisingly off-target with two further attempts.

Tigers dominated the first 25 minutes. They did have a try by Jack Van Poortvliet ruled out for a Freddie Steward obstruction, but somehow some heroic defence from the hosts maintained their advantage until the 33rd minute when Montoya forced his way over from close range.

Just before half-time, Leicester’s captain Ellis Genge was somewhat fortunate to escape with a yellow card for striking opposition wing Francois Hougaard in the face before Gopperth missed a penalty to leave Wasps trailing 13-7 at the interval.

Genge returned from the sin-bin with no damage done to the scoreboard before the visitors introduced Ben Youngs, Matias Moroni and Joe Heyes in an attempt to reverse the tide as Wasps, aided by some creative touches from Gopperth, had enjoyed their best period of the match.

Gopperth rewarded their efforts with two penalties in quick succession to bring the scores level at 13-13 going into the final quarter.

Wasps brought on Wales international flanker Thomas Young for his 150th appearance for the club in time to see Gopperth put his side back in front with another penalty.

Tigers were rattled and they built up a period of huge pressure with a succession of scrums close to the hosts’ line but they could not capitalise, so Wasps just held on for a famous victory.

Rory Sutherland sent off as Bath beat Worcester

Elsewhere, Scotland prop Rory Sutherland could be a doubt for the Six Nations opener against England after he was sent off in the second minute of Worcester’s 22-19 Premiership defeat at Bath.

While Bath celebrated a first win of the season at the 13th attempt in all competitions, Worcester forward Sutherland, who was in his comeback game after six weeks out injured, now faces a disciplinary hearing.

The British and Irish Lion was dismissed by referee Craig Maxwell-Keys for a head-on-head challenge that forced Bath prop Will Stuart off the pitch.

But Bath, despite playing against 14 men for virtually the whole match, were made to work hard for a victory that was their first since June.

Fly-half Orlando Bailey’s penalty 10 minutes from time broke their Premiership duck this term, while he also added two conversions as Bath posted tries by wing Semesa Rokoduguni, centre Max Ojomoh and full-back Tom de Glanville.

Worcester, without a win from 17 previous visits to the Recreation Ground, matched them try for try as full-back Jamie Shillcock, lock Joe Batley and scrum-half Gareth Simpson touched down, with fly-half Fin Smith kicking two conversions.

Bath remain well adrift at the Premiership basement, but a long overdue success should at least lift spirits ahead of tough Champions Cup games against La Rochelle and Leinster.

Hooker Tom Doughty made his first Premiership start for Bath, packing down alongside Lewis Boyce and Stuart. Josh Bayliss returned at number eight and scrum-half Ollie Fox was also recalled, but wing Will Muir was a late withdrawal and replaced by Wales international Tom Prydie.

Sutherland returned in a Warriors side that also included former Bath prop Christian Judge, but positive Covid-19 tests meant that fly-half Billy Searle and number eight Sione Vailanu were absent.

England head coach Eddie Jones was among the crowd and the game began in dramatic fashion with Sutherland’s dismissal following several video reviews made by referee Maxwell-Keys.

And Bath capitalised from their first attack after centre Jonathan Joseph’s sharp midfield break helped create space out wide before Rokoduguni applied a clinical finish and Bailey converted.

Worcester, though, made a strong reply and scored their opening try just five minutes later when Shillcock’s angled run saw him touch down despite the attention of two defenders.

But Bath were soon on the the front foot again, with Ojomoh scoring their second try following his midfield partner Joseph’s clever kick into space, and Worcester trailed 14-5 after Bailey converted.

Bath looked to impose themselves on the contest, yet Worcester displayed admirable resilience and reduced their arrears when Batley crashed over for a close-range try, converted by Smith.

And the Warriors went in front following an impressive passage of play as centre Francois Venter’s half-break sent Smith clear, before he delivered a scoring pass to his unmarked half-back partner Simpson.

Smith converted to leave Bath five points adrift, with Worcester good value for their interval advantage.

And Bath’s problems were compounded six minutes into the second period when Bayliss was yellow-carded for illegally stopping a lineout drive, temporarily making it 14 versus 14.

Worcester continued to probe attacking spaces, yet Bath struck next through a 57th-minute try for De Glanville after he gathered Rokoduguni’s pass and sprinted clear.

It set up a tense final quarter at 19-19 and Bailey nudged Bath back in front after 70 minutes when he booted a penalty from 35 metres, and it proved enough to thwart Worcester, who had to be content with a losing bonus-point.

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