Bath made history this weekend, witnessed by 12, 817 supporters at the Rec, as Leicester failed to put any points on the board – a Premiership first for the Tigers as they were thrashed by the men in black, blue and white 45-0.
â€œ…We were pretty relentless really…to nil Leicester is pretty fantastic …â€ said Mike Ford.
It was one of the best games I’ve watched for a long time! On the day, the set piece, defence and attack all went to plan for Bath. It was utterly sensational to see such an exquisite and enthusiastic side score five tremendous tries. As for Leicester, what can I say?
The West Country side just missed out on a top four Premiership place last season, a little like a rough puff pastry missing a little butter, and we all know how that ends up on the Great British Bake Off. But belting Bath were back in the heat and they were back with a vengeance.
So where do I start?
The RAF just happened to parachute in, a perfect way to set the scene for any rugby supporter and there was a tangible air of expectation and excitement in the stands. The spires of the abbey provided a beautiful backdrop and when Semesa Rokoduguni scored in the corner early doors for Bath off a pass from Carl Fearns, the crowd were on their feet. George Ford rustled up a successful conversion just under the ten minute mark and little could we have guessed just how much more there was in store!
Bath owned the scrum, their dominant shift won them a penalty and Ford slotted one between the posts.
The tempo and pace of the game Bath was creating was thrilling, pure theatre.
From a superb attacking line, the speed of Jonathan Joseph beat three defenders to cross the white wash â€“ where were Tigers? – A soft try. Ford’s luck was in as his kick bounced off a post and through. An extra two points and it was 17-0 after twenty minutes.
How were Leicester going to react?
Well they didn’t; finding themselves in their own 22 yet again. After being ripped to shreds in two scrums, it was â€˜drop goal Georgeâ€™ who took his chance and the successful goal put Bath 20 points up with 6 minutes left to play in the first half. Wow!!!
Taxi for the Tigers? They certainly had nothing in their tanks.
The body language of the Leicester side was agitated and their energy just didn’t seem focussed in any facet of play. Penalised yet again in the scrum, Leicester seemed to be slowly falling of the radar as Ford’s boot slotted another three pointer, all before half time!
â€œEveryone talks about this moment where you kill teams off and it really is important you know. You let teams like this back into the game and you never know how it’s going to end up, so I was pleased the way we did that after half timeâ€ said Stuart Hooper.
I expected Leicester to re-emerge fighting, but as Ford’s boot kicked his third penalty of the game, it looked like an ever decreasing downward spiral for the cubs … or should I say Tigers. Bath preyed on the Tigers like vultures and yet again the ball was overturned by an unyielding Bath defence, igniting a minute of sheer sublime attacking play from the home side.
Ford decided not to kick, a risky decision on his own try line but a pass to Joseph sparked a surge of spontaneity with breaks from Stuart Hooper and Dave Attwood through the middle of the Leicester defence which resulted in Kyle Eastmond pirouetting over the line. It was a tremendous team try and Bath fans were on their feet, even I was. Ford missed the conversion but that didn’t stop the rampages of this ravenous side. 31-0
The speed at which Bath were able to offload the ball on the attack highlighted Leicester’s inability to respond to the game being played in front of them. Leicester were locked down at every opportunity which saw them nudged back into their own 22 quite swiftly.
Once again from inside their own half, Bath managed to overturn the ball at the breakdown.
What proceeded was a popping phenomenon pretty much the length of the pitch between Leroy Houston and Olly Woodburn, until he crossed the line. All at the Rec were up and down like musical chairs! It was safe to say Leicester were out of sight when Ford converted to take Bath to 38-0 with just over ten minutes left to play.
Bath’s Nick Auterac was then yellow carded for a high tackle and soon after the chance of a try for Tigers! But inches from the white-wash, a double movement saw them penalised and back they went, and then came Bathsâ€™ second breathtaking try from their own 22.
Off a five metre lineout in their own 22, Peter Stringer set up fleet of foot Rokoduguni and Eastmond to make blinding breaks – enabling Stringer to finish off his own try which saw the Rec celebrating again. From one end of the pitch to the other, round we went again – it was like being on the waltzer. Fordâ€™s boot obeyed again, it was simply surreal , 45-0, and all when Bath were down to fourteen men.
If being nailed wasn’t enough for the visitors, a red card was shown to David Mele for stamping, moments before the end of the match, a demoralising way to end; Richard Cockerill calling it, â€œpretty unhelpful.â€ He also said after the game:
â€œWe just couldn’t cope with the set piece…you’re always going to struggle on the back foot and we just got outplayed across the field… we had opportunities but we weren’t good enough to take them. Credit to Bath, we got exactly what we deserved.â€
Full Time: Bath 45-0 Leicester Tigers
With emphasis from Cockerill after the game on losing thirteen players to injury, I began to wonder, are the Tigers all too reliant on the likes of Ed Slater, Dan Cole, Manu Tuilagi and Anthony Allen? Where was their defence?
As for Bath, Man Of The Match was given to George Ford but all players 1-23 deserved the award. This Bath squad were immaculate and accomplished. Mike Ford mentioned the pressure Kyle Eastmond took off George coming round the short side, I had the privilege of speaking to Kyle after the game:
â€œIt’s always nice to beat one of the top teams but like I say, we keep our feet on the ground and we’ve got a lot of work to do…we take each day as it comes…I think we played a smart game today…â€
â€œWe’re coming up against another great side next week and it’ll be a tough test but we’re really looking forward to it and like I say, we’ll go into next week clean slate and we’ll start again.â€
I’m looking forward to a spell binding spectacle at Franklin’s Gardens next weekend.
By Rhiannon Chandler-Day
You can see more from Rhiannon at: http://rhiannonsrugbyunionblog.blogspot.co.uk