Todd Blackadder was visibly delighted to see his Bath side wake up from their slump and show signs of the dangerous old selves as they fought from behind to beat Leicester Tigers 27-21 in front of more than 60,000 fans at Twickenham, drawing level with their old rivals in the battle for fourth place in the process.
After shipping 12 points in as many minutes, it appeared that Bath had choked on the big stage, but a resilient fightback saw both Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson cross for tries, the latter twice, to clinch a crucial victory in Bath’s quest to beat Leicester to the Premiership semi-finals.
With the West Country side also through to the European Challenge Cup semi-finals, Blackadder believes he has his side nicely positioned to challenge on both fronts, and the fact that they go into the final three Premiership games of the season off the back of such an impressive performance delighted the Bath head coach.
“There was a lot more on the line for us,” Blackadder said. “We knew we would have to work hard, we knew we would have to play better than last week. We have been in a bit of a slump but it’s more what the club put into today with 60,000 people. You want to back that up with a really good performance.”
The New Zealander did not have any concerns despite watching Leicester score two early tries through Brendan O’Connor and Telusa Veainu, and after trailing by 12 points and again 18-10 in the opening minutes of the second half, Blackadder maintained confident that his attack would click.
“I knew we would fire,” he added. “It was probably the best week we have had preparation. We have been on the back foot and we had to play – we had to play well and we couldn’t go into our shells.
“We were probably a bit rocked early on but we got ourselves well and truly into game.”
The victory puts Bath right in the mix for a top four finish and a ticket to the semi-finals. With Wasps, Saracens and Exeter looking nailed on for the semi-finals – the latter thanks to a late Thomas Waldrom try to see off spirited Bristol 38-34 – it looks a case of four into one for Leicester, Bath, Harlequins and Northampton and their play-off hopes.
The West Country outfit are now level on 52 points with the Tigers, and miss out on moving into fourth due to a points difference deficit of 36. That leaves Leicester looking over their shoulder when a victory would have sent them at least seven points clear of Bath, and for Geordan Murphy, the disappointment came in losing their grip on the game.
“[I’m] Really disappointed,” said Leicester coach Murphy, who took charge of the match as the returning Matt O’Connor gets his feet beneath the table. “Wwe had a really good start the first 20 to 25 minutes of the game, we played the way we wanted to and then I think we just switched off.
“Really disappointed with our lack of execution, we were in the Bath 22 seven times and we only executed twice, and that kills you. You go there and get three points twice and it obviously changes the momentum. I don’t know if we managed the game that well in the last 15-20 minutes, I thought we were just forcing out things and making uncharacteristic mistakes, mistakes that we haven’t made over the last eight or so weeks.”